Unilever bought family-owned Weis in 2017

Unilever bought family-owned Weis in 2017

FMCG giant Unilever is shifting production of the Weis ice-cream brand in Australia from Queensland to New South Wales, with 93 workers expected to lose their jobs.

The Anglo-Dutch consumer goods firm said in a statement the decision comes after a review of its ice-cream operations in Australia and New Zealand, with manufacturing to switch from Toowoomba to another site in Minto.

It added the Toowoomba factory is now slated for closure in December next year following a transition period. 

Unilever, which also owns the Ben & Jerry's and Magnum ice-cream brands, acquired family-owned Weis in 2017, when it pledged to keep the facility in Toowoomba as a going concern

When the deal was announced, managing director Julie Weis said: "Our family made this decision because Unilever demonstrated their understanding of our brand, our products and how important our people and the Toowoomba manufacturing site are in ensuring Weis' success into the future."  

However, Clive Stiff, the chief executive for Unilever in Australia and New Zealand, expressed his regret over the site's closure: "We did not anticipate this decision when we acquired Weis from the Weis family in 2017. It was our firm intention to keep manufacturing at Toowoomba, which is why we have made major investments in the site over the past two and a half years."

He continued: "However, the ice-cream market – in terms of costs, competition and distribution channels – has changed very quickly and pressure on our business has significantly increased.

"After an extensive review, it's become clear that consolidating our Australian ice-cream manufacturing operations at Minto is necessary to achieve the benefits of scale and ensure continued strong on-shore manufacturing."

The job losses include both full- and part-time workers, along with casual staff. Unilever said the affected employees will have the option to transfer to other sites, otherwise it will "offer significantly more favourable redundancy provisions than the existing enterprise agreement, which was in place before Unilever's ownership".

Stiff said Unilever had informed the Weis family of its decision and they were very disappointed by the plant's closure.

He added that 25% of the proceeds from the sale of the Toowoomba facility would be put back into the local community.