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Friday, January 12th, 2007

Dannon may cut 48 jobs

By Margie Wuebker
The Dannon Co. plans to eliminate 34 jobs at its Minster distribution center later this year, with the possibility of 14 additional jobs being phased out in 2008.
"We need to focus on what we do best - making yogurt," Michael Neuwirth, Dannon's senior director of public relations, told The Daily Standard this morning. "The picking and shipping of customer orders can best be handled by a company that specializes in this."
Exel, a distribution company located in Dayton, will handle the work previously handled by local distribution center personnel. Dannon will continue to store some finished product at the Minster plant, but not to the extent it currently maintains.
The decision, which has been under study for the past year, will allow the company to focus investment as well as attention on growing its manufacturing capacity.
Employees were informed of impending plans during a plant-wide meeting Thursday. The changes will be implemented during the second quarter of the year or the period from April through June.
Displaced associates will have several options, including applying for other jobs at the Minster plant. Neuwirth added the company will provide necessary training to support those moving to different positions. Additionally, Dannon plans to offer a "voluntary exit incentive package" for any current employees wishing to leave during the transition period.
"We believe the changes will result in (a total of) about 28 job eliminations at Dannon," Neuwirth said. "But because of the steps we are taking to minimize job loss, we are hopeful that this number will ultimately be even lower."
Dannon continues to plan for growth in the future by adding new products. Danactive, a new drinkable yogurt product made in Minster, will debut Monday.
Graham Packaging, a supplier of yogurt containers, opened a new facility adjacent to the local plant in December. This means containers will no longer be shipped in by truck, increasing efficiency and eliminating the possiblilty of holdups in delivery.
Minster Village Administrator Don Harrod admits there have been rumors regarding some type of move in recent weeks.
"I've heard rumors circulating around town from time to time," he said. "They have not been validated by Dannon at this point."
Dannon came to Minster in the mid-1960s and has grown from a relative handful of employees to a workforce numbering approximately 400.
Neuwirth said the Minster plant is Dannon's largest in the United States, turning out containers of yogurt at the rate of hundreds of thousands per day. He added the exact number remains a proprietary secret from competitors.
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