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Jobs to go at Norfolk factory

PUBLISHED: 08:00 16 January 2009 | UPDATED: 07:54 01 August 2010

TURKEY giant Bernard Matthews Farms is to cut 130 jobs at its head office and production facility in the heart of Norfolk.

About 95 processing jobs and a further 35 administrative - or "salaried" - posts will go out of Matthews' 2,510-strong workforce

Most of the redundancies will be made at the firm's headquarters at Great Witchingham.

TURKEY giant Bernard Matthews Farms is to cut 130 jobs at its head office and production facility in the heart of Norfolk.

About 95 processing jobs and a further 35 administrative - or “salaried” - posts will go out of Matthews' 2,510-strong workforce

Most of the redundancies will be made at the firm's headquarters at Great Witchingham.

Noel Bartram, chief executive, said: “This action is a consequence of the challenging economic climate that has resulted in increased price sensitivity, a need to lower costs to remain competitive, and less people leaving the business in a very depressed labour market.

“While our focus on British turkey farming and the new product launches in 2008 stand us in good stead, our number one priority is the long-term sustainability and success of the company.”

The consultation over jobs also follows the £3m relaunch of the Matthews brand last autumn.

Mr Bartram said private polling to gauge how the relaunch had been received by consumers suggested that 70pc found the brand more appealing - and 54pc of people polled said they were more likely to buy Matthews' products.

But the weakening economic climate since then has seen consumers search for bargains in the supermarket aisles and growing price competition and discounting among retailers.

The £3m campaign was a bid to win back consumers' trust in the wake of the bird flu outbreak at the Matthews plant at Holton in Suffolk two years ago and “Twizzlergate” - criticism of the firm's Turkey Twizzlers by the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in 2005.

Sales fell by 10pc to £326m in 2007 and the firm made an operating loss of £9.6m - down from a £22m profit in 2006 and a £40m profit the year before Mr Oliver took up the cudgels against the brand.

Last summer's relaunch saw the union flag and the words “Bernard Matthews Farms” displayed on all packaging in a bid to emphasise the company's roots as a British farming business.

The bright red banner declaring the company's name was replaced by a golden turkey sitting on a weather vane, pointing east.

Gaudy boxes designed to stand out in freezer cabinets gave way to a more simple design intended to evoke green fields or golden crops.

Alongside the change in packaging, the firm removed artificial colours and flavourings from its products and switched to 100pc British meat - a response to concerns about meat being moved from plants in Europe during the bird flu outbreak.

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