As Swiss food and beverage giant Nestlé ponders the fate of its coffee plant in Freehold, the more than 200 employees who work there are calling to keep the factory open.
On June 20, over 60 members of Teamsters Local 11 held a three-hour demonstration to fight against any plans to shutter the 75-year-old plant on Jerseyville Avenue, saying such a move “would deeply impact workers and the local community,” according to a union representative.
While Nestlé says a final decision has not yet been made, the union said company managers told employees the plant “could close by the end of 2023” as part of a plan to relocate production to Mexico, which is where the global corporation invested $340 million to build a state-of-the-art coffee factory.
After opening in 2022, the new Nescafe plant in Veracruz brought 1,200 jobs to the region, making Mexico Nestlé’s main producer of coffee in the world.
Meanwhile, the Freehold manufacturing facility has undergone improvements since it began operating in 1948, but the location is limited based on “its age, flexibility and ability to meet growing consumer demand in a cost-effective way,” Nestlé said in May.
Although the company’s beverage division – whose brands include Nescafe, Clasico, Taster’s Choice, Coffee-Mate, Nestea, Carnation, Juicy Juice, Ovaltine and Nesquick – has four factories across the country, the Freehold plant is the only one that produces coffee.
Over the past month, the company – which has its U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Va. – has sat down with the union to discuss the site.
Following the June 20 demonstration, Local 11 representative Anita Clark said Nestlé “continues to be vague about the future of this plant and the futures of over 200 families that depend on these jobs.”
In a statement, a Nestlé spokesperson said, “We appreciate the union’s willingness to discuss the situation, including the annual cost savings required to make continuing operations there viable for our business in the long term. Our decision process has also included conversations with local Freehold officials and New Jersey government agencies.”
“Decisional bargaining with the union has concluded, and our leadership team will now make a final decision regarding the factory,” the spokesperson added. “We are committed to giving our Freehold employees updates in a timely manner.”