Warburtons have been forced to cut jobs at their site in Stockton-on-Tees, as demand for their bread products continues to fall.
33 employees have been subjected to compulsory redundancies at the bakery site in County Durham.
Alternative roles provided
The Warburtons bakery is having to take drastic measures as the plant falls on hard times, thanks to the falling demand for bread made at their site. 129 people are employed in full-time food jobs there, but 33 of them have now been told that they are facing mandatory redundancy.
A spokesperson for the company said that they would not simply be leaving the workers on their own to enter the food recruitment market again, but rather that they would attempt to find alternative roles for those who have been affected. This could involve moving them into their crumpet manufacturing lines, helping them change to a different site, or downsizing their role.
“As a result of an increasingly challenging retail market and falling bread volumes we have taken the difficult decision to enter into a 30-day consultation that could impact a number of jobs at our Stockton bakery,” said a statement from the spokesperson. “No decision will be made until the thorough consultation is completed and we are supporting everyone affected at this very difficult time.”
It’s clear that if no alternatives are found, the jobs will simply be gone – which is bad news for those in the non-essential roles which are sure to be the first to be cut. It is not clear what the consultation hopes to achieve, however it is likely that the main aims will be deciding which jobs are cut and which ones can be moved to a different role. What does appear to be certain is that the management decision to cut jobs is final, and will not be altered.
Fighting for demand
Health concerns are certainly one of the big pushes behind the falling demand for bread, as many consumers opt to go gluten-free or try a diet which contains less bread. In dietary plans such as Slimming World, bread is downright frowned upon, with followers encouraged to cut down to two slices per day or replace it with a cereal.
Warburtons have started a certain amount of pushback, attempting to re-establish their foothold in what is very much a changing market. They already sell a range of gluten-free products, and have now begun overhauling the range to make it more appealing to consumers. They recently relaunched their gluten-free wraps as part of these changes.
The company is headquartered in Bolton, with 12 bakeries and 14 additional depots situated across the UK. They claim to have made investments of more than £400 million into building new bakeries and upgrading existing ones over the last ten years. £20 million of that was given to the Burnley bakery, for example, equipping it with new machinery and lines that made it possible to produce more than 34,000 items every hour.
Warburtons claim that they delivery to 18,500 retail customers every week, shipping out more than 2 million products which are produced every day. These include ranges such as wax-wrapped loaves, wraps, bread rolls, pancakes, and crumpets. It has managed to hold onto a quarter of the total wrapped bakery market – an industry which is worth more than £2.8 billion a year.
Adapting and changing is going to be key for the bakery market in coming years – particularly as it is hit from two fronts: the gluten-free movement, and also the movement to shop with independent bakeries and stores rather than going to supermarkets.