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Heinz cuts 45 jobs at British factory

| Friday, June 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

H.J. Heinz Co. is cutting 45 jobs at a factory in the United Kingdom, part of a wider review of efficiency by the Pittsburgh ketchup maker.

Heinz said the jobs will be lost because it is transferring the production of infant milk formula for the Chinese market to a plant in New Zealand.

“Supplying infant milks from the UK to Heinz markets in Asia and the Far East is increasingly uncompetitive and is not efficient or sustainable in the long term,” the company said in a written statement.

The move by Heinz comes less than a week after the company was acquired by investment firm 3G Capital and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway in a $28 billion deal.

3G, which is known for aggressive cost-cutting at the companies it buys, is taking the lead in running Heinz and has already installed two of its partners at the top of the company. When the buyout closed on June 7, former Burger King CEO Bernardo Hees became Heinz CEO, and Paulo Bastilio was named chief financial officer.

Hees and 3G have declined to discuss their plans for Heinz. Spokesman Michael Mullen said the layoffs at the UK plant, which is in Kendal in northern England, are not related to 3G taking over the company.

Mullen also declined to comment on a report by the New York Post that said 3G would look to cut costs at Heinz by getting rid of the company's fleet of corporate jets. The Post, relying on unnamed sources for its story, said 3G made the same move at Burger King when it bought the fast-food chain in 2010.

Gemma Hart, a spokeswoman for 3G, declined to comment.

Heinz owns four Gulfstream jets, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

The 45 jobs that will be cut at the UK plant account for about a quarter of the 170 people who are employed at the Kendal plant.

Production of infant milk for China will be contracted out to Fonterra, a New Zealand-based company, Heinz said.

“We deeply regret having to consider transferring production of our Chinese infant milks to New Zealand,” Itziar Albisu, vice president of global infant and nutrition supply chain said in the Heinz statement. “We regret having to make this proposal, but it has only been made after careful consideration of all possible alternatives.”

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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