81 to Lose Jobs in October : Pillsbury to Close Long Beach Facility

Times Staff Writer

In a move to consolidate marketing, research and other administrative activities in Minneapolis, Pillsbury said Tuesday that it will close the Long Beach headquarters of its Van de Kamp frozen food unit at the end of October.

The closure will affect 81 employees--mostly administrative, marketing and information system personnel and 12 workers who staff Van de Kamp’s test kitchen. The company informed the affected employees of the decision Monday afternoon.

Pillsbury, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, said the closure will not affect the Van de Kamp plant in Santa Fe Springs, which employs about 350 workers, or a similar facility in Erie, Pa. The Santa Fe Springs plant processes frozen seafood and Mexican entrees that are sold nationwide.


Pillsbury recently consolidated two plants in Chicago that produce its Azteca brand products and announced that it will close a Lafayette, Ind., plant that produces Green Giant brand food items.

Van de Kamp frozen foods is part of the Pillsbury U.S. Foods Group, which also includes businesses that produce such name brand items as Haagen Dazs ice cream and Totino’s and Jeno’s frozen pizzas. A spokesman for Pillsbury said Van de Kamp has been the only unit of Pillsbury U.S. Foods whose administrative operations are conducted outside of Minneapolis. In addition, he said, about half of Van de Kamp’s research and development work was already being done in Minneapolis.

Thomas R. McBurney, chairman of Pillsbury U.S. Foods, said in a statement that consolidating the Long Beach facilities with those in Minneapolis “will enable us to more efficiently manage our asset base and to improve customer service as we continue our excellent growth in the frozen fish business.

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“Our concern now is the effect of these layoffs on our employees, their families and the Long Beach community. We are giving as much advance notice as possible. We are making every effort to anticipate the needs and concern of our employees and their families after the facility closes.”

About one-quarter of the employees at Long Beach will be offered similar positions at Pillsbury’s headquarters in Minneapolis or at the Santa Fe Springs plant, which has been in operation since 1970. Pillsbury acquired the Van de Kamp frozen food business in 1984 from General Host Corp. of Stamford, Conn.

The Pillsbury spokesman said the Santa Fe Springs facility will soon begin producing some Green Giant brand frozen entrees now coming out of the Indiana plant, which will close at the end of this month. In addition, the California plant will produce a new Pillsbury product called “Microwave Classic Casserole.” Both items are for national distribution.

Asked if the moves will create jobs at the Santa Fe Springs plant, he said the company will not know for about two weeks. He added, however, that the increased production is likely to boost employment opportunities.

Pillsbury employs about 3,842 people in California, 2,500 of whom work for the company’s Burger King unit. More than 800 of the remainder are employed by Pillsbury’s U.S. Food Group, which accounted for $3.36 billion of the parent firm’s total 1987 fiscal sales of $6.1 billion.

Among other operations in California, Pillsbury also operates a flour mill in the City of Commerce, a Green Giant plant in Watsonville and a Haagen Dazs ice cream plant in Tulare.