Kraft Heinz Downsizing Will Affect Jobs, Product, At Champaign Plant

Outside the Kraft plant in Champaign.

Outside the Kraft plant in Champaign.

Travis Stansel/Illinois Public Media

Kraft Heinz’s latest plans will have an impact on the products made at the Kraft plant in Champaign.  The company announced Wednesday that it’s closing seven North American plants and eliminating 2,600 jobs. The Champaign plant will stay open, but is losing part of the company's cheese production to other plants.

A company statement says the Champaign plant will lose part of its cheese production to other plants, and be re-focused as what the company terms a “center of excellence” in dry and sauce production.

"As a result of this decision we do expect there to be job losses in Champaign," said Kraft-Heinz spokesperson Michael Mullen. "We are committed to remaining transparent with employees as more information becomes available in the months ahead."

Craig Rost is executive director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation. He says he’s still trying to find out details of the Kraft Heinz announcement, but remains confident about the long-term future of the company’s Champaign plant.

"It was Kraft’s largest plant," said Rost, "and they have added a significant improvement to warehouse and truck distribution here at this facility. So I think, they may change product, which may have some employment changes here at the local plant. But I’m confident it’ll continue to be a high producer for the Kraft Heinz organization."

According to Mullen's statement, "our decision to consolidate manufacturing across the Kraft Heinz North American network is a critical step in our plan to eliminate excess capacity and reduce operational redundancies for the new combined Company,. This will make Kraft Heinz more globally competitive and accelerate the Company’s future growth.  We have reached this difficult but necessary decision after thoroughly exploring extensive alternatives and options."

Heinz and Kraft announced they were merging in March.

The seven plants closing include the Madison, Wisconsin Oscar Meyer facility. Two-hundred and fifty corporate jobs will relocate from there to Chicago, where Oscar and Gottfried Meyer founded the brand in 1883.

Other plant closures will occur in Fullerton and San Leandro, California; Federalsburg, Maryland; St. Marys, Ontario, Canada; Campbell, New York; and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Kraft Heinz also plans to move production from their existing Davenport, Iowa facility to a new plant within the Davenport area.

(This article was updated, 11/4/15 5:25 PM)

Story source: WILL