McCain to Shut Grobbendonk Plant, Boost Lutosa Output

McCain Foods intends to stop manufacturing frozen potato specialty items at its factory in Grobbendonk, Belgium (near Antwerp), early in 2016 and shift production to the Lutosa plant in Leuze-en-Hainaut. "This decision potentially impacts 92 workers and 31 employees," the company said in a recently issued statement.

lutosa logo 200pxThe Lutosa facility, acquired by McCain from the Pinguin Group in 2012, is situated about 90 miles southwest of Grobbendonk. Up to 42 additional jobs are expected to be created at the Leuze site, which currently employs approximately 550 people. The new positions will first be offered to dismissed Grobbendonk personnel who are willing to transfer.

Production costs at the Grobbendonk plant, which McCain has been operating for nearly three decades, are said to be 25% higher than at the Leuze site. Two new production lines will reportedly be added at the Lutosa factory to boost capacity by up to 40,000 tons per annum.

“Faced with increasingly strong competition threatening our market position in the potato specialty sector, the current profitability of the Grobbendonk plant is not sufficient to meet these new challenges," according to the McCain statement.

The Grobbendonk factory has a long history in food processing, beginning with the production of canned goods in 1901. During World War II it packed the La Camponoise brand of canned fruits and vegetables. A year after the war ended, following a takeover by NV Materne, it launched frozen vegetables under the Frima label while continuing to sell vegetables in both cans and bottles.

When NV Universal Foods took over in 1970, it ceased production of canned goods to concentrate full time on frozen food. In 1978 Universal merged with NV Viking of Ostend to form Frima-Viking, which in turn was acquired by McCain in 1986.

Croquettes range listMcCain stopped packing frozen vegetables output at the Grobbendonk plant in 1990 to concentrate exclusively on potato products. A second potato products line was installed in 1991, as an expanding product line of specialties then ranged from standard, spiral and oven croquettes to potato balls, wedges, kid-friendly Smiles®, and other items.