Chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut plans major investment in Belgian sites

Chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut plans to invest more than 150 million euros in two Belgian factories. This was discussed on Thursday at a European works council meeting in Antwerp.

Last month, Callebaut said it was working on a plan to save around 250 million euros worldwide by cutting 2,500 jobs, an exercise that was necessary in order to invest 500 million euros. The company, which operates more than 60 chocolate factories, is allocating a significant part of this to its two production sites in Belgium.

"We intend - as part of the announced investment plan - to invest 150 million Swiss francs [153 million euros] over the next four years in the Belgian plants in Halle and Wieze, the cradle of our company," CEO Peter Feld said on Thursday. The investments will be used mainly for innovation, sustainability and service improvement.

The largest Callebaut factory is in Wieze, East Flanders, which employs 1,200 people. There is also a production site in Halle and ​ a global distribution centre in Lokeren.

Trade unions were not convinced about the need to implement the cost-cutting exercise and have planned a meeting in Antwerp on Thursday and Friday to persuade management to limit job losses. "Unfortunately, our request to see alternative plans once again remained unanswered," says Kurt Marysse of ACLVB, the most prominent union among Callebaut workers.

"It goes without saying that we welcome the investments," said ACV nutrition and services secretary Hilde Verhelst, "But to date, we do not see a sufficient explanation for collective dismissals."

Barry Callebaut employs more than 13,000 people around the world. In Europe, 700 employees will lose their jobs. 500 will lose their jobs in Belgium, from a total workforce of 1,800.



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