- Campbell Soup is closing its manufacturing facility in Columbus, Georgia, by spring 2022, the soup and snack maker said in a statement. The 94-year-old facility is the company's oldest manufacturing plant, and was part of Campbell's 2018 acquisition of Snyder's-Lance. It had several ownership changes over the years; Lance acquired the Columbus operation in 2005, when it was known as Tom’s Foods.
- Campbell plans to shut the facility down in phases over the next 18 months. The plant currently employs 326 individuals who make candy, crackers, cookies, nuts and bars. The company is providing support, including severance or separation packages, career counseling and transition support to any affected employees.
- Plant closures have been common during the last several years as large CPGs look to cut costs and focus their production on more modern facilities.
In deciding to close the Georgia plant, Campbell Soup is coming to the realization that the facility's age had finally caught up with it. The nearly century-old plant also is being shuttered because demand has waned for some offerings produced there, the company said. Campbell will phase out the production of candy under the Lance brand and shift production of its higher-demand Lance, Emerald and Late July snacks across its Snacks division’s manufacturing network.
“Closing one of our facilities is a very difficult decision," Valerie Oswalt, president of Campbell Snacks, said in a statement. "The Columbus plant is the oldest in our manufacturing network, making it difficult to retrofit."
The fact that a large CPG such as Campbell Soup is closing a plant is not uncommon in the food and beverage space. In the past, many companies have taken this approach to increase efficiencies and boost their bottom line. Nestlé, Kraft Heinz, TreeHouse Foods and General Mills are among the companies that have announced plant closures in the past few years.
It was reported last November that Mondelez International is considering closing biscuit manufacturing plants in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and Atlanta as early as mid-2021. Mondelez said the two locations are no longer geographically strategic and the plants are facing operational challenges, including aging infrastructure that would require “significant investment” to be modernized.
Once the pandemic abates and shopper consumption habits normalize, more companies may choose to reassess the future of many of their plants. The outbreak has prompted some businesses to cut down on their product lines to focus only on those that have wide-enough distribution or have promising growth trajectories. Coca-Cola, for example, is in the process of cutting 200 global brands and reducing its workforce after it announced in December it would cut 2,200 jobs globally, including 1,200 in the U.S.
As companies shrink their portfolios or squeeze out efficiencies, some facilities may no longer be needed — or in the case of Campbell Soup, cost too much to renovate. Other businesses might find it more productive to reposition employees or their production network to faster-growing parts of their business, including e-commerce, R&D or data analysis.