Kerry Foods plant in Durham faces closure with 350 job losses
A food firm is planning to close a factory in Durham with the loss of up to 350 jobs.
Irish-based Kerry Foods said competition from rival manufacturers had forced it to consider transferring work to other UK plants.
The company is known for its Mattessons, Richmond and Wall's brands of sausages.
A spokesman for the union Usdaw said staff had been left "stunned" by the "absolutely disastrous" news.
In a statement the company said formal, 90-day consultation had started with the workforce, adding that the cut meat sector had become "highly competitive" in the past year.
It went on: "While we have made significant adjustments to our cost base and have sought to win new business, to date we have not identified a plan or a strategy to restore profitability to a sustainable level.
'Shocked and angry"
"Unless an alternative plan can be identified, we may have no option but to consider the closure of the Durham factory and transfer of production to other Kerry sites."
Joanne Thomas, Usdaw's North East divisional officer, said: "This is absolutely disastrous news for everyone who works at Kerry Foods, for their families and for the whole community. Any closure could destroy the incomes of entire families.
"There has been no prior warning that closure was being considered, or even a suggestion that the future of the site could be in doubt, so our members are understandably extremely shocked, angry and distressed.
"We will examine the company's business case for the proposed closure in detail but our overriding objective will be to keep the site open and to save jobs."
The factory is one of Durham's largest private sector employers.
Last year Kerry Group reported an increase in annual pre-tax profits of almost 11% at 449m euros (£376m), up from 405m euros the previous year.