Dreyer's to Close Plant in Southland

Times Staff Writer

Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Holdings Inc. is putting the freeze on the City of Commerce factory where it has made ice cream for 23 years.

Oakland-based Dreyer's said Thursday that it would close the plant, which employs 99 people, and transfer production to its ultra-modern operation in Bakersfield.

"We completed a huge expansion in Bakersfield and production has been shifting there, so there really is no more production needed in Commerce," said Dori Sera Bailey, a spokeswoman for the company.

Dreyer's invested $100 million to expand the Bakersfield plant last year, doubling its size and adding 381 employees for a total of 800 workers, Bailey said.

The company has said it hopes to increase California's annual ice cream output by more than 50%.

The Bakersfield plant now produces more than 7% of the nation's ice cream each year, along with more than 1.2 billion drumsticks, ice cream sandwiches and other icy sweets. Each day, the factory uses 250,000 gallons of fluid milk and 350,000 gallons of condensed milk and cream in its ice cream production.

Bailey said the company hoped to offer most of those who were losing their jobs in Commerce positions at the Bakersfield plant or at one of its six other plants around the country. Dreyer's also has a plant in Tulare, Calif., where its Haagen-Dazs brand ice cream is made.

The Commerce plant had been pumping out ice cream since 1982, manufacturing family-size cartons and three-gallon barrels for restaurants and ice cream parlors. The facility will close in late April.

Tom Sykes, Commerce's city administrator, said that although the city was saddened to lose the jobs, he was sure that the plant space would be filled quickly by another company.

"It was more of a manufacturing and distribution facility, so it didn't generate sales tax for us," Sykes said.

In November, Dreyer's posted its first quarterly profit in three years because of lower milk and cream costs. The company reported $859,000 in net income on revenue of $520.3 million, compared with a net loss of $10.5 million on revenue of $473.7 million in the year-earlier period.

Dreyer's is majority-owned by Nestle, the world's largest food company, which purchased about 68% of the company in 2003 and has begun buying the rest of Dreyer's shares.

Shares of Dreyer's closed unchanged Thursday at $83.

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