CAMDEN, N.J. -- Campbell Soup Co. announced plans Thursday to close four domestic plants, including the one in Camden where the company began 120 years ago.
The closings approved by the board of directors are part of a world-wide restructuring that is expected to include the shut-down of five overseas plants.
R. Gordon McGovern, the company's president and chief executive officer, said the restructuring 'demonstrates Campbell's continued commitment to control costs and aggressively addresses weak spots in our manufacturing and distribution systems.'
'We are committed to being a low-cost producer and to market products that are the first or second best-sellers in their categories,' McGovern added.
The closings in Camden, Pocomoke City and Crisfield, Md., and Smyrna, Tenn., will eliminate 2,800 jobs, the company said. A one-time writeoff of $344 million, or $2.01 a share, is to be charged to earnings for the fiscal year that ended July 30.
Campbell projects that the restructuring will result in savings of almost $15 million in fiscal 1990 and a total of about $150 million over the next four years.
All employees will be given six months' notice, severance pay and a benefits package to be negotiated with union representatives, McGovern said.
The board already has approved capital expenditures of $430 million for fiscal 1990, up from $302 million in fiscal 1989, which will be used to upgrade existing plants and to build a previously announced new Pepperidge Farm plant in Adamstown, Pa.
The Camden canning plant, the company's oldest manufacturing facility, employs 940 people. But James Moran, a company spokesman, said many of the workers already have reached retirement age.
The plant's production will be moved to Campbell's four remaining canned food plants in Napoleon, Ohio; Paris, Texas; and Maxton, N.C., and the shutdown is expected to be completed by the end of 1990.
Campbell, still headquartered in Camden, was founded there in 1869 by Abram Anderson, a manufacturer of iceboxes, and James Campbell, a maker of preserves. John T. Dorrance, inventor of condensed soup, later bought the company and launched its most famous product.
The Camden plant now manufactures Campbell's soups, Franco- American pasta, Campbell's beans and Prego spaghetti sauce.
McGovern said the company remains committed to Camden. Campbell already has announced plans to build a new 200,000-square-foot corporate headquarters on the waterfront, to spend $25 million expanding the pilot research facility at Campbell Institute for Research and Technology, and $20 million on renovations to the existing headquarters.
Most of the Pocomoke City frozen food plant's workforce of 272 and its production will be moved to the Salisbury, Md., frozen food plant, which recently was expanded. Production at the Mrs. Paul's Kitchens plant in Crisfield, which employs 246 workers, will be shifted to other Campbell plants. Production at the Mrs. Giles Country Kitchens refrigerated salad plant at Smyrna, Tenn., which employs 84 employees, will be moved to a sister plant in Lynchburg, Va.
The company since l986 has phased out canned foods manufacturing in Chicago and has closed a pickle plant in Memphis, Mich., a Mrs. Paul's Kitchens plant in Doylestown, Pa., and a meat processing plant in Pottstown, Pa. In addition, the company earlier this year sold its Mendelson-Zeller fresh produce subsidiary, and has sold ingredient plants in Center and Nacogdoches, Texas; Clayton, Del., and Cairo, Ga.
In recent years Campbell has divested its pet food, physical fitness equipment, and Canadian and U.S. apple juice businesses and several international operations.