Unilever has announced plans to close its Weis ice cream manufacturing facility in Toowoomba due to increased competition and cost pressures.
Unilever’s Minto site in New South Wales will handle the manufacturing of Weis ice cream following the closure which is due to be completed in December 2020, impacting all 93 jobs.
The FMCG giant made the announcement on Thursday, following an extensive review of its Australia and New Zealand ice cream business.
Despite significant investments in building the brand through marketing, R&D and increased distribution, Unilever said the move was necessary to ensure a “long, sustainable future for the historic Weis brand”.
“We did not anticipate this decision when we acquired Weis from the Weis family in 2017. It was our firm intention to keep manufacturing at Toowoomba, which is why we have made major investments in the site over the past two and a half years,” Unilever ANZ chief executive Clive Stiff said in a statement on Thursday.
“However, the ice cream market – in terms of costs, competition and distribution channels – has changed very quickly and pressure on our business has significantly increased.”
Stiff said the decision was not taken lightly and recognised the extensive impact on the local community.
“We have spoken to the Weis family and we appreciate their deep disappointment, and we understand this is not something they would have foreseen when they sold the business to Unilever,” he said.
The FMCG giant is putting a support program in place to help workers find new employment with the options to re-skill and up-skill. While there are opportunities to transfer to other parts of the Unilever business, those that take redundancy will be offered a “significantly more favourable” package than the current enterprise agreement which was put in place before Unilever took ownership.
Stiff said the company will continue to source fruit from businesses and farmers in Queensland and intends to invest a quarter of the proceeds of the sale of the site into developing the local community.