There is a risk of job loss at Marston’s Eagle Brewery in Bedford, where a bottling line is being permanently closed.
Up to 45 jobs may be lost if the firm does not manage to replace the positions.
Moving the line
The problem is with an old canning and bottling line, which is no longer fit for purpose. Rather than replacing it, the company found through projections that it would actually make more sense to move the line to another of their sites. It will be replaced and reopened at their Burton-upon-Trent facility instead.
45 people currently work on the line, so when it is closed down, there is a risk for all of them that they will not be able to continue. This is out of 150 total food jobs in the Bedford facility, so it represents a significant portion of the staff.
Marston’s have offered those at risk the opportunity to go for voluntary redundancy, or to seek out other positions within the business. Perhaps some of those will mean relocation to the Staffordshire line when it opens.
“We have spent nine months looking at this, because one of the original intentions was to see if we could refurbish the line, but that is not going to be possible,” said Managing Director Richard Westwood.
The time frame behind the decision is somewhat important, because Marston’s have actually owned the site for less than a year. They purchased it from Charles Wells in a £55 million deal, which also saw them taking control of the company’s former portfolio. This included more than 30 beer brands, such as Bombardier, McEwan’s, and Young’s.
New line investment
The silver lining, however, is the fact that a similar number of jobs will be created when the new, state-of-the-art line is installed. The £8 million investment will no doubt usher in a need for food recruitment in the area.
It will be interesting to look at what other improvements are made by Marston’s as they move forward. They actually paid nine times the size of the current earnings of Charles Wells when they purchased the site and portfolio, which seems to suggest they have big plans for profit in the future.
What is not clear is whether or not they thought the line was salvageable before they made the deal. If they were under that impression, then it may come as a hard blow to have to sink another £8 million in investment into the project, just to get it running in a favourable way.
Still, this is, of course, one of the risks of investment in the food industry. Innovation is often required, and for small companies that do not have the spending power to grow, lines and equipment can quickly grow outdated. The challenge facing the companies that acquire them is then the minimise the investment spend whilst also maximising growth and getting the most possible profit.
This would have been taken into account when assessing the status of the existing line. Presumably, their investigations found that it would cost more than £8 million to rip it out and start again – or that the same amount of money would create more potential profit when move their other facility.
An ear to the ground will be needed to see where the new jobs open up with Marston’s over the coming year. Alongside this first line opening, we can perhaps expect to see some more opportunities from the growing business. Their current ability to invest in expansion has been made more than clear with their latest moves.