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Rich Products to lay off 100 workers, 12 locally

Rich Products Corp. is reorganizing its North American business to focus on the products with the most value and potential, and cutting about 100 jobs in sales, support and production roles that aren't needed.

The cuts, half of which are in manufacturing and half in administration, amount to 2.5 percent of the company's North American employees and 1.7 percent of its total global workforce of 6,000.

They will occur over the next few weeks across four divisions and 20 facilities, and affect 12 Buffalo employees, said spokesman Dwight Gram.

The action -- the first large layoff by the Buffalo-based food products company in at least two years -- will help the company weather rising oil and commodity prices that are affecting the entire food service industry.

"This isn't merely a cost-cutting exercise," he said. "This is a fundamental restructuring of our North American business organization, basically to be aligned around our strategy moving forward, in a food industry that's becoming increasingly volatile."

The new strategy calls for reallocating spending around the company's most important customers and business lines, which are focused on the product areas of convenience, health and wellness, and indulgence. In particular, it will target its core non-dairy products, as well as shrimp, certain bakery items and desserts.

Other areas will be de-emphasized, though officials have no plans yet to drop any products.

The company will also continue investing in technology and innovation, while strengthening capabilities like packaging, engineering, marketing and trade management. In fact, Gram said, the company has hired about 80 people in various roles at its headquarters this year, and is creating 30 more jobs over the next few weeks -- many in Buffalo -- in research, engineering and packaging.

But the plan also calls for cutting the company's cost structure. Officials conducted a thorough review of the jobs that would be needed, and the talent and skills its employees possessed. As a result, about 60 additional people are being reassigned to new roles and some are even being relocated, with assistance, to Buffalo.

Officials are aiming to finish the restructuring by Jan. 1.

About 25 manufacturing workers in 20 North American plants, and about 50 sales, marketing and support staff across the company's Foodservice, In-Store Bakery, Consumer Brands and Canada divisions will lose their jobs. Another 25 manufacturing jobs were already vacant.

Workers are being notified this week. The company is providing severance pay and outplacement assistance.

"We don't take these decisions lightly. These are things we don't like to do," Gram said. "Whenever people are affected, it's a difficult time for us."


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