Nestlé has said it will shut a French frozen meals plant after consumer trust took a hit and sales plunged in the wake of the horse meat scandal.
The factory is one of two Nestlé plants located on a site in Beauvais, just north of Paris, and the other, which makes ice cream, will remain open, company spokesperson Valérie Berrebi told FoodNavigator.
She stressed that the frozen meals produced at the plant did not contain horse meat, and sales of its ready meals had already been falling. At the peak of the horse meat crisis, sales of frozen meals from the plant were down 40% and they never recovered, still down 25%, she said.
“In the last years, the activity of frozen meals was decreasing,” she said. “With ‘horsegate’, our products in the supermarkets were not concerned. There was no horsemeat in them, but because of the mistrust of the consumer for all the category, sales were decreasing.”
The plant closure is planned for the middle of 2014, but employees would not lose their jobs, she said.
“There will be no layoffs because the plan would involve internal mobility with the ice cream plant which is on the same site, and managed end of careers agreements,” she said.
Berrebi added that the company intended to focus on its ice cream activity on the site, improving its organisation and making it more competitive.
Nestlé’s reported drop in ready meal sales during the horse meat crisis was in line with the experience of the rest of the industry. According to Kantar Worldpanel data, sales of frozen burgers fell 43% in the four weeks following the first news of horse meat in products labelled as 100% beef.