Sunday, March 3, 2024

Nestlé to end infant formula manufacturing and R&D operations in Ireland

Nestlé has announced a proposal to cease operations in its Wyeth Nutrition infant formula factory in Askeaton, Co Limerick, Ireland by Q1 2026, and is proposing to close the co-located R&D centre by Q1 2025.

Nestlé will now consult with all employees and their representative unions. The announcement means approximately 542 colleagues will be placed at risk of redundancy.

The facilities were part of Nestlé’s acquisition of Pfizer Nutrition in 2012. Operating as Wyeth Nutritionals Ireland Ltd (WNIL), the factory manufactures infant formula products exclusively for export to markets in Greater China and Asia. The factory currently employs 491 people. The R&D facility employs 51 people.

External trends have significantly impacted demand for infant nutrition products in the Greater China region. The number of new-born babies in China has declined sharply from some 18 million per year in 2016 to fewer than 9 million projected in 2023. The market, which had previously been reliant on imported infant formula products, is also seeing rapid growth in locally-produced products.

To adapt to those changes Nestlé is proposing to transfer the production from Askeaton to two existing factories – Suzhou, Mainland China and Konolfingen, Switzerland.

Konolfingen is also home to Wyeth and Nestlé Nutrition’s global R&D centre of excellence for infant and maternal products. It is proposed that R&D work at Askeaton would be absorbed into Konolfingen, where 365 colleagues work on research and product development across several disciplines, and a satellite R&D centre in Shanghai would be strengthened.

A statement from Nestlé says: “These proposals have been carefully considered and are no reflection on the excellent contribution made by our employees in Askeaton over many years.

“To date, we have not been able to find a buyer. Therefore, we will commence a meaningful consultation process with our employees on a proposed closure. In parallel, during this consultation we remain open to approaches from a credible buyer.

“We regret the uncertainty this announcement will cause our colleagues and their families, and we will make sure they are supported fully throughout this process.”

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