published on March 7, 2018 - 1:00 PM
Written by David Castellon

Operators of TreeHouse Foods, Inc. said they’ll work to provide job-placement assistance to nearly 300 employees when the company’s Visalia manufacturing plant shuts down next year.

The Illinois-based company, which has 40 plants across the U.S., Canada and Italy making pre-packaged foods and beverages, announced earlier this month its plans to close the Visalia plant at 9945 W. Goshen Ave. as part of a larger downsizing due to declining sales.

“Corporate announcements such as this can cause great uncertainty, but we are confident that the employees will be handled with care and that they will find jobs,” Nancy Lockwood, executive director of the Visalia Economic Development Corporation, said in an email to The Business Journal.

“The Visalia Industrial Park is home to a wide variety of businesses, large and small, who are always looking for quality employees. TreeHouse Foods provided ample notice, which is a courtesy to the employees, and another food processor will appreciate the significant investment that has been made in that plant,” her message continued.

“The decision is consistent with the August 2017 announcement of TreeHouse 2020, the company’s restructuring program,” a multi-year plan to integrate the business and reduce its cost structure, according to a press release on its website.

“It is clear that we are witnessing an evolution in the retail landscape, as digital technology and bricks and mortar compete for the attention of consumers in a slow- to no-growth food and beverage marketplace,” states the August release, which also noted plans to close two manufacturing plants in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota and Plymouth, Indiana, while downsizing another plant.

Those plans changed when TreeHouse announced in late January it had revised its plans to downsize its Battle Creek, Michigan cereal plant and instead close it.

Then came this month’s announcement of adding to the closure list the Visalia plant, which reportedly took many of the 294 people employed there by surprise.

The plant was built in 1960 and was purchased by ConAgra Foods in 2010. TreeHouse Foods acquired the facility in 2016 when it acquired ConAgra’s private-label food operations, said Brian Pitts a spokesman for the company.

The Visalia facility produces pretzels and cereal snack mixes sold under private-label brand names, and plans are to move pretzel production to another plant prior to the closure.

As for when the Visalia plant will close, Pitts said the company isn’t being any more specific than saying it will occur before the end of the first quarter of next year.

He said he also didn’t immediately know what type of assistance will be offered to help employees find new jobs.

Company officials estimate the cost of closing the Visalia plant at about $21 million.

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