Oamaru eyes 'iconic' confectionary brands

Pineapple Lumps, make up just 10 per cent to 15 per cent of Dunedin's Cadbury factory's output. A local manufacturer is said to be interested in taking the brands on. Picture / ODT
Pineapple Lumps, make up just 10 per cent to 15 per cent of Dunedin's Cadbury factory's output. A local manufacturer is said to be interested in taking the brands on. Picture / ODT

An South Island manufacturer is being sought to make "iconic" Kiwi confectionery brands, Mondelez said yesterday after announcing the closure of the Dunedin Cadbury factory.

Workers were said to be shocked and emotional after the factory's fate was confirmed.

The factory has 300 permanent staff, and a variable number of seasonal staff.

A new working party involving Mondelez, Etu union, Dunedin City Council, the Otago/Southland Employers' Association, and local MPs will work on issues arising from the closure.

Mondelez Australia and New Zealand managing director Amanda Banfield said the Kiwi brands, which include Jaffas and Pineapple Lumps, make up just 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the factory's output.

Banfield said a local manufacturer had expressed strong interest in the brands. She declined to confirm whether it was Oamaru's Rainbow Confectionery. At least two Otago/Southland manufacturers had been identified as potential third-party manufacturers, neither of them in Dunedin.

"It's unlikely to be Dunedin. We are the only manufacturer here in the city to make the products that we're talking about."

Banfield said Mondelez did not know yet whether marshmallow egg production would stay in New Zealand as it depended on the new manufacturer's capability. There had also been informal expressions of interest for the main Cumberland St site, which would be sold after liaison with the working party.

A final decision would be made in May on the future of Cadbury World, after input from the community. Banfield said Mondelez would pull out of the investment at Cadbury World "if we were to get a really negative reaction from the community".

Cadbury World's shift into the old Dairy Building, which fronts on to Castle St, was in train before Mondelez announced the closure proposal last month.

Construction work for the $3million redevelopment has begun. Once completed next year, it was hoped the expansion could support an increase in visitor numbers from 110,000 to 180,000 per year. At present it employs 36 staff part-time, which could increase.

"We don't want to foist it on the community if they're not keen on having a Cadbury World left behind," she said.

Etu food strategic director Neville Donaldson said confirmation of the closure had hit the workers hard.

"[The local organiser] said he was quite surprised at the level of surprise about the announcement and the reaction from staff. They're very emotional; it's really hit home."

Donaldson said there had been talk about a Cadbury workers' co-operative taking over the manufacturing of the Kiwi brands, but it appeared unlikely to come to anything. He understood there was insufficient equity among them to start a company. There are 300 permanent staff, and about 100 seasonal workers, whose numbers vary through the year. At present, 33 seasonal workers are employed at the factory.

Rainbow Confectionery general manager Brent Baillie said the Oamaru factory was keen to produce the popular brands, and had the necessary capacity and equipment. Baillie said Rainbow should have been invited to join the working party announced yesterday as it could have played a crucial role.

"New Zealanders deserve New Zealand iconic products made in New Zealand."

Baillie said he would prioritise laid-off Cadbury workers for new jobs if Rainbow won the contract. The number of new jobs would depend on volumes. Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said he was pleased Mondelez had listened to calls to manufacture the Kiwi brands in New Zealand. The rest of the factory's output would shift to Australia.

"I look forward to getting back around the table with the other working party members to make the best of a bad situation and achieve the best possible outcomes for our community from here."

"I am gutted for the workers affected by the closure.

"The appropriate agencies and organisations will pull together to support them - whether that be through facilitating opportunities for new employment, re-training or any other practical measure.

"A wide number of other city leaders and agencies have expressed their desire to be part of a city-wide support effort and I know they will follow through," Cull said.

- Otago Daily Times

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