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Pepperidge Farm set to exit Norwalk

Mayor offers support to affected employees

The Pepperidge Farm Innovation Center on Westport Avenue. (Google)

NORWALK, Conn. — Pepperidge Farm is leaving Norwalk, a move announced Wednesday by parent Campbell Soup Co.

“We’re reimagining our Camden Headquarters, our home for more than 150 years, and investing $50 million to make a great space even better,” Campbell’s said in a news release. “We are consolidating our Snacks offices in Charlotte, North Carolina and Norwalk, Connecticut. With one headquarters, we’ll accelerate our plan to build a winning team and culture by investing in our campus and our people.”

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling released a statement, expressing regret and directing affected residents to support services:

“I’m disappointed to hear the news that Pepperidge Farm on Westport Avenue is closing its doors and consolidating jobs to their headquarters in Camden, N.J. Pepperidge Farm founder Margaret Rudkin was one of the great business leaders of her time and fulfilled her dream of opening a state-of-the-art bakery right here in Norwalk, in 1947. When I was younger, we would take school trips to Pepperidge Farm, and they would give each student a loaf of bread. I have fond memories of learning how their bread was made.

“However, when a corporation of this scale closes its doors, not only does it impact the community, but it disrupts the lives of its employees within the region and their families. While the company is giving employees the opportunity to relocate to their New Jersey headquarters, it’s very challenging for most families to move and uproot their lives.

“Unfortunately, the company did not give the City advance notice that it would be closing, but workforce development has been a top priority for my Administration and the State of Connecticut. Anyone in the community facing job loss and in need of support should contact our Community Services Department at City Hall and utilize our Community Resource Hub to be directly connected with training programs and workforce development opportunities.

“Our Community Services Department was created to be a resource to residents during challenging circumstances and will work closely with our community partners to help residents access the services they need. Residents can call 203-854-7999 and select prompt four to be directly connected to a member of our team to help them navigate this process.”

 

Campbell’s said it expects to begin construction on its New Jersey facility in March. The company upgraded its Norwalk facility about a decade ago, announcing in 2011 that it would invest $30 million into the Westport Avenue property. That included the construction of an innovation center.

“The company expects to realize cost savings from consolidating the buildings beginning in fiscal year 2024 and reach $10 million in annual cost savings by fiscal year 2026. The savings will be partially reinvested in the business and are included in the company’s plan to increase margins in the Snacks division,” Business Wire reports. “No commercial roles are being eliminated related to the closing of the Charlotte and Norwalk office buildings. The company will provide eligible employees with comprehensive relocation support.”

“A handful of functions specifically related to facility maintenance will go, the firm said, although ‘no business functions are being eliminated related to the closure of the Charlotte and Norwalk office buildings,’” DeleciousFood reports. “The company said it would “Provide eligible employees with comprehensive relocation support.”

“Employees will relocate to Camden in phases starting in mid-2023. Employees who choose not to relocate will receive job placement support and severance benefits, the company said,” Hartford Business reports.

“We have a long history in Connecticut and North Carolina and will continue to have key operations in both states,” Campbell CEO and President Mark Clouse is quoted as saying in multiple news articles, including one on Real Estate NJ. “The decision to close these offices was difficult but it is the right thing to do for our business and culture. Unifying the company in one headquarters increases connectivity, collaboration and provides enhanced career opportunities for our team.”

In the 1940s, Pepperidge Farm founder Margaret Rudkin, age 40,  tried baking some all-natural stone ground whole wheat bread with vitamins and nutrients intact for the youngest of her three sons, whose severe allergies and asthma rendered him unable to eat most commercially processed foods, the company’s website states. Her son’s doctor “didn’t think it was possible to bake nutritious bread that was also delicious. Margaret proved them wrong.”

The family lived in Fairfield “on a beautiful property called Pepperidge Farm—named for an ancient Pepperidge tree that grew there.”

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