Mid Wales

AM Elin Jones' fears for Rachel's future in Aberystwyth

A Rachel's yogurt
Image caption Rachel's is sold in supermarkets throughout the UK

An AM has raised concerns about the future of an organic yogurt maker in Aberystwyth after its owners revealed a number of jobs were at risk.

Ceredigion AM Elin Jones said she hoped the announcement was not an indication by Rachel's owners, the French dairy giant Lactalis, to close its factory.

Lactalis said on Wednesday that it was committed to its dairy in Aberystwyth.

The Welsh government said it would work with Lactalis to safeguard Rachel's future in the town.

Ms Jones raised concerns about the yogurt maker at environment and sustainability questions in the Senedd on Wednesday.

Rachel's was founded in the 1980s by Rachel Rowlands and her husband Gareth, a local farmer, but was sold to a large manufacturer in 1999.

Lactalis bought Rachel's, which employs 150 people, from US company Dean Foods in 2010.

Lactalis has said it is looking to integrate its factory in Aberystwyth with another part of its business.

The firm has not confirmed the number of jobs at risk, but has said those involved in manufacturing will not be affected.

Plaid Cymru's Ms Jones said Rachel's was an important private sector employer in Aberystwyth.

"I sincerely hope that cutting jobs now isn't an indication of the company's intention to move its factory away from Aberystwyth," she said.

"I raised the issue with the minister (deputy Minister for Food Alun Davies) to ask him what he intends to do to ensure every support possible is offered to the company to ensure its presence in Aberystwyth and any workers who face redundancy."

In response to Ms Jones' question in the Senedd, deputy Food Minister Alun Davies reassured her the Welsh government would work with Lactalis to safeguard Rachel's future in Aberystwyth.

He added: "My officials have been, and will continue to be, in contact with Rachel's.

"I had a meeting with officials on the matter today (Wednesday)."

He added that Rachel's was an iconic brand, not only for Aberystwyth, but also for Wales.

'Rachel's success'

"It is vital that we protect and nurture brands and businesses like Rachel's for the future. We will continue to do that," said Mr Davies.

In a statement on Wednesday, Lactalis said it could not confirm the number of jobs at risk until it had gone through a consultation process, but those involved in manufacturing, which accounts for the majority of staff, would not be affected.

"Rachel's Dairy Limited (Rachel's) and Lactalis have announced a proposal to integrate the Rachel's business into the wider Lactalis Group within the UK and Ireland," the company said.

"Since Lactalis purchased Rachel's in August 2010 it has continued to operate as two separate operations. LNCD (Lactalis Nestle Chilled Dairy) is now looking to integrate the two organisations.

"These changes will strengthen and help sustain Rachel's success for the future, and secure the long term business relationships with local farmers and the area."

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