More than 18 months after contamination of one of its production lines with E.coli bacteria, leading to a serious health scandal and the death of two children, the future of the Buitoni factory in Caudry (Hauts-de -France) is becoming clearer. This Monday, the French subsidiary of Nestlé, the owner of the site (which has 125 employees) and the brand, entered into exclusive negotiations with the Italian Italpizza, for the takeover of its northern factory specializing in the manufacture of frozen pizzas. . On March 30, the group announced its intention to permanently cease production in this factory, then in April, that of withdrawing from its frozen pizza activities in Europe.
The operation, “which should be finalized by the beginning of 2024” according to a spokesperson for the Swiss giant, should make it possible to restart activity at the factory, which has been shut down since March 2 due to lack of orders. “I made a commitment on March 13 that we would continue to do agri-food on the Caudry Food Products Company (SPAC, Editor’s note) site, and that Nestlé would have an obligation of results on its looking for a buyer, reacted Monday Roland Lescure, the Minister Delegate in charge of Industry. It is now done. In less than eight months, that’s pretty notable. The fact that it is an established player, with already existing markets and rapid prospects for business recovery, is an excellent thing.” Committed to the file to avoid the outright closure of the site whose activity had collapsed following the contamination, the minister will go to Caudry again on Tuesday.
“We have had several strong expressions of interest in the site. Italpizza was selected because it is a solid and long-lasting player, with more than 30 years of experience in the frozen pizza market, and 1000 Italian pizza recipes, Nestlé explained. This acquisition could respond to the commitments made by the management of Nestlé in France, with regard to the employees of the SPAC and the territory, to relaunch a production activity (...) with employment and investment prospects in the territory."
Commercially present in 56 countries, Italpizza, which has six factories in Europe, is banking on this potential new site to supply its markets in the north of the Old Continent. And this from the start of 2024, with the return to service of the first production line in Caudry, through the hiring of 40 employees. The group carries out 30% of its activity on its eponymous brand, the rest being carried out with distributors for their own brands. “The site should ramp up until 2026/2027 and ultimately hire 140 employees,” adds Roland Lescure. That's a little more than the 125 employees in place at the time of Nestlé's announcement in March of its plan to permanently cease production.
Italpizza is committed to injecting 10 million euros into Caudry, in particular to modernize line number 2 at the origin of the bacterial contamination of pizzas from Buitoni's Fraîch'Up range. Unlike the previous owner, Italpizza will only make pizzas with cooked pasta. “There are employees already trained at Caudry, who could find opportunities with the buyer,” we emphasize in unison from both the executive and the world food leader.
Pending the effective completion of the buyout, Nestlé France will continue to pay the 113 employees of the factory until December 31, as well as the 12 salespeople and support function employees. The group specifies that it has proposed 130 internal industrial reclassification offers in Hauts-de-France, as well as external offers “adapted” to all Caudry teams. 109 employees are currently supported on retraining, reclassification, business creation projects, or early retirement schemes, details Nestlé France.