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Pfeiffer Foods cut back from two shifts to one Monday, continuing a two-year trend toward lower production and fewer workers at this community's largest private employer.

John Follick, manager of the salad-dressing plant at 683 Lake St., said competitive pressures from larger companies have put Pfeiffer in a downturn for more than a year.

Follick said instead of three production lines on the day shift and one line on the night shift, there will be four lines on days.

Follick said employment peaked two years ago at 200, but is now down to 120, counting non-union clerical and supervisory personnel. He said there have been no massive layoffs, but jobs have been shed a few at a time.

"We're back to our employment level of eight years ago," said Follick, who's been at the plant since 1976, and in charge since 1983.

Four-year employee Glenn Gaviller said Monday, "I'm no. 79 on the (union) seniority list, and practically everybody below me is laid off. . . . I feel totally helpless, relying on the market."

Follick said during the 1994-95 fiscal year, Pfeiffer shipped 6 million cases of salad dressings and other condiments to its primary markets in the East. This year, he projects 4 million cases will be produced.

"We've not been up to our maximum capacity all this year," Follick said. But he added the plant is still profitable. Asked if it was in danger of closing, Follick said, "I don't think so. . . . It depends on sales, but I don't think it's going to get that bad."

Pfeiffer is a division of T. Marzetti Inc., based in Columbus, Ohio. Marzetti officials did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

Follick said the Wilson plant produces primarily 8- and 16-ounce bottles of Pfeiffer salad dressing, and 12-ounce bottles of Girard's, an "upscale" salad dressing. The Wilson plant is the only one in the Marzetti system producing bottled salad dressing for retail.

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