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Campbell Soup To Restructure

August 25, 1989

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ Campbell Soup Co., which began making soup here 120 years ago, will close its original plant, three U.S. factories and five overseas for a loss of nearly 2,800 jobs, the company said Thursday.

Campbell said it would keep its headquarters in this poor southern New Jersey city on the Delaware River, but would move production at the 940- employee plant to canneries in Napoleon, Ohio; Paris, Texas; and Maxton, N.C. The headquarters employs about 1,700 people.

The company said that as part of a worldwide restructuring it also plans to close a 272-employee plant in Pocomoke City, Md.; a plant employing 246 people in Crisfield, Md., and an 84-employee plant in Smyrna, Tenn.

The five overseas plants, which employ 1,200 people, were not identified. Campbell said it would close the Camden plant by next July, but did not have a timetable for any of the other closings.

Many employees will be offered transfers, while others will be offered severance pay or help finding other jobs, the company said.

The restructuring was approved at a board of directors meeting earlier Thursday, said spokeswoman Marsha Cade.

″We feel that this will make Campbell more efficient,″ said Ms. Cade. She said the U.S. plants being closed were older, and ″just aren’t as efficient as they should be.″

″It would cost over a billion dollars to bring the Camden plant alone up to date,″ she said.

Plants in Chicago, Memphis, Mich.; Doylestown and Pottstown, Pa.; already have closed, and Campbell has sold its fresh-produce subsidiary and ingredient plants in Center and Nacogdoches, Texas; Clayton, Del., and Cairo, Ga.

The company has about 100 plants around the world, 60 of them in the United States.

Campbell sells about 5 billion cans of soup a year, garnering about 65 percent of the $2.2 billion retail soup market, a drop of about 5 percent in the past five years.

Although Campbell is closing the plant where it got its start in 1869, it plans to start building a new $35 million, 200,000-square-foot headquarters on the waterfront across the Delaware from Philadelphia.

″Campbell is very committed to Camden,″ Ms. Cade said.

Melvin ″Randy″ Primas, mayor of this city of 85,000 people, said the announcement was not a surprise. ″We have been trying to prepare for this day,″ Primas said.

The closing will have no major effect on a $500 million waterfront redevelopment project, said Thomas P. Corcoran, executive director of the Cooper Ferry Development Association.

″Obviously it’s not good news for the city of Camden to lose a large number of manufacturing jobs,″ said Corcoran. ″Plants like that are dinosaurs.″

Ms. Cade the restructuring resulted from a three-year study of Campbell’s plants and operations.

Marvin B. Roffman, an analyst with the brokerage firm Janney Montgomery Scott Inc. in Philadelphia, said the announcement constituted a statement by Campbell management that ″we’re going to be lean and mean.″

″Any food company who wants to be independent in the ’90s had better be a very low-cost producer with a global presence,″ Roffman said.

Some analysts have said Campbell had too many inefficient plants. For years, John T. Dorrance Jr., the son of the inventor of condensed soup, hesitated to lay off workers or shut down plants.

Before his death in April, Dorrance began to see the writing on the wall: that the food industry was moving to consolidated, state-of-the-art operations, Roffman said.

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