Ireland-based Valeo Foods plans to merge its Tangerine Confectionery and Big Bear Confectionery businesses, with the closure of a UK factory and job losses looking a real prospect.

Proposals include the closure of the Big Bear plant in the city of Leicester in the Midlands, and the creation of a new head office encompassing both the Pontefract and Blackpool offices, Tangerine Confectionery said in a statement.

Under the merger plan, Valeo, which owns the Poppets and Fox’s Glacier mints brands, said it will create a new combined confectionery division by transferring and merging Big Bear into Tangerine Confectionery, the company the Irish firm bought last year.

Tangerine Confectionery owns brands such as Barratt, Refreshers, and Dip Dab.

Consultations are already underway with employees and unions have been informed. “The consultation period is expected to last until end of April, at which stage the final outcome of the process will be communicated to all employees,” according to the statement. No mention has been made of the potential number of job losses.

Explaining the rationale behind the decision, the company statement added: “The confectionery market in the UK is very competitive and the proposals will create a business with strong innovative capabilities, a unique breadth of technologies and a portfolio of iconic British brands that will have the potential to deliver sustainable and profitable growth.”

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Both Tangerine Confectionery and Big Bear have launched formal consultations with affected employees and union representatives under a so-called Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) process. 

Trade union Usdaw has already reacted to the news.

Alex Fraser, an Usdaw area organiser said: “This is devastating news for the staff who are obviously very upset. It would also be a blow for Leicester to lose the iconic Fox’s Glacier Mints brand, which is in its centenary year. We will now enter into meaningful consultation talks with the company, where we will examine the business case for the closure of this site. In the meantime, we are providing our members with the support, advice and representation they require at this very difficult time.”

A spokesperson for Tangerine Confectionery said in the statement that if the planned merger goes ahead, the closure of the Big Bear plant is not likely to happen until the end of the year.

“Our immediate priority is the welfare of those employees who may be impacted by the proposals and we are committed to do everything we can to support our colleagues through the consultation period and beyond,” the spokesperson added. “The proposals being discussed with our employees will create a combined UK confectionery business that will be better positioned to deliver future sustainable growth in what is a very competitive UK confectionery market.”