Unilever is planning to shutter its Weis ice cream manufacturing facility in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, due to increased competition and cost pressures. The closure, scheduled for completion by December of 2020, will impact 93 jobs.
Production of the wide assortment of Weis products, which range from single fruit and ice cream blends, frozen yoghurt and sorbet distributed in single units, multipacks and tubs, will shift to Unilever’s plant in Minto, New South Wales.
The Weis Mango and Cream Bar, featuring Kensington Price mangoes, has been the top-selling item since its launch in 1959, just two years after the company’s founding. Other popular fruit and cream offerings include blackberry and vanilla, coconut, raspberry, strawberry, watermelon, lychee and passion fruit.
“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. 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,” stated Unilever ANZ Chief Executive Clive Stiff on November 14.
He added: “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.”
A support program will be made available to help displaced find new employment, and some personnel may be offered opportunities to transfer to Unilever jobs at other locations. Additionally, the company says that a “significantly more favorable” package will be offered to redundant workers than the severance pay agreement in place before it bought the Weis enterprise.
After closure of the Toowoomba production plant, the company intends to continue sourcing fruit from businesses and farmers in Queensland.