The UK’s largest dairy company has entered into consultation with staff to close its glass bottling dairy in Aintree, Merseyside and its polybottle dairy in Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire later this year. Nearly 500 jobs are at risk.
Dairy Crest said the move would leave the company’s Hanworth dairy in London as its only glass-bottle site.
The announcement comes as the familiar chinking sound of the milkman making his morning rounds grows ever rarer.
Around two million glass milk bottles are currently delivered to people’s doorsteps every day across the UK. This is down from around 40m in the early 1990s.
Dairy Crest said that there has been a fall in sales of milk in glass bottles as “residential sales continue to decline and households increasingly opt for plastic bottles and milk bags”.
The company is battling an “extremely challenging” market for liquid milk and said the plans, which are subject to staff consultation, would help it reduce costs and sustain profitability.
Dairy Crest said a recent £75m investment programme enabled it to transfer work to its three polybottle dairies at Severnside, Chadwell Heath and Foston in Derbyshire.
Mark Allen, Chief Executive of Dairy Crest, said: “Dairy Crest is a broadly based business which has delivered against our strategy despite challenging trading conditions.
“Our Foods business has performed strongly and sales of our five key brands continue to grow.
“However, along with the rest of the sector, our Dairies business is under sustained pressure and we have to continue to act decisively to protect its future.
“The decision to consult on the closure of our Aintree and Fenstanton facilities has not been taken lightly, but we believe that this proposed restructuring of our Dairies business is the right decision for the long-term. We will do all we can to help employees who may be affected by these proposals.”
Loss of Tesco milk supply contract
Allen added: “The challenges in the liquid milk industry are further underlined by the disappointing loss of the Tesco liquid milk supply contract. However it represents just 3% of our total liquid milk volumes and has not driven the restructuring decisions which we are announcing.
“Tesco remains a large and important customer for our key UK brands Cathedral City, Country Life, Clover and Frijj.”
A total of 220 people work at the company’s Aintree dairy and a total of 250 people work at its Fenstanton dairy.