Unilever to close Atlanta plant

by Monica Watrous
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ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. – Unilever announced it will close its spreads factory in Atlanta on June 30 to address spare capacity among the company’s other U.S.-based spreads plants.

The decision affects 125 employees at the Atlanta factory, where Country Crock, Imperial, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter products are manufactured.

After a string of divestures that included its frozen meal brands to ConAgra Foods, Inc., and Skippy peanut butter to Hormel Food Corp., London-based Unilever P.L.C.’s food business has been reduced to three core activities: margarine, dressings and savory.

Unilever’s margarine business struggled in last year’s third quarter due to competition from butter, said Paul Polman, chief executive officer for London-based Unilever P.L.C., in a Jan. 23 conference call with analysts to discuss full-year results for fiscal 2012.

“We found ourselves in a very unique situation that the butter prices were cheaper, although obviously a significantly less healthy product,” Mr. Polman said. “We have put the price equation right again. … And as a result of that, we see increasingly our business growing share there, in a market though, I want to reiterate once more, that is not growing to the extent that some of our other markets are growing.”

Mr. Polman said the company continues “to shed the non-core and margin-dilutive parts of the (food) portfolio and will continue to do so.”

Unilever employs about 11,000 people in the U.S. and generated more than $9 billion in sales in 2012.
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