Is this the end of the Lions Christmas cake?
CHRISTMAS may never taste the same with Lions seeking a new supplier of its popular festive cakes and puddings following the planned closure of the Top Taste Bakery next year.
Lions cakes, which are made at the 50-year-old Kedron bakery, have been a festive season favourite for decades with proceeds benefiting charities.
A female worker at the factory, who did not wish to be named said the bakery was still making Lions cakes for next Christmas season helping keep staff busy ahead of the planned closure in May.
"It it still going to be busy and we'll still be making Lions cakes in the first few months of next year," the worker said. "There's other ongoing work, biscuits have been sold and there's order commitments that we need to bake."
Lions Christmas cake and pudding sales have raised more than $50 million since its inception in 1965.
Lions Australia chief executive Rob Oerleman said the service organistion was working closely with Top Taste to transition to a new supplier for 2021.
"The Lions Christmas Cake recipe is proudly owned by Lions Australia and once we have sourced a new supplier, we will ensure the product retains the quality and taste loved by our customers," said Mr Oerleman, who said over 100,000 cakes and puddings are sold each year.
The Top Taste worker said the bakery had suffered a downturn as a result of changing consumer tastes. "Cakes are not as popular anymore with a preference for healthier options," she said.
The closure of the Kedron baker will mean the loss of 120 jobs along with some of Australia's most iconic morning tea favourites made by Top Taste including lamingtons, madeira cake and Swiss rolls.
The announcement comes just weeks after the multinational owners of Toowoomba's Weis bars announced it was shifting production to the Emerald City.
Top Taste, owned by George Weston Foods, has been producing baked goods from its Gympie Rd factory since the 1960s but the plant will close in May with some production moving to Sydney. Like other bakers, GWF is facing reduced demand for its products amid a push for healthier diets along with higher costs and increased competition.
GWF's biscuit crumb business will shift to Sydney from Kedron after it was sold to Newly Weds Foods, in which GWF has a 50 per cent stake. Production of its other cakes and biscuits will cease. GWF noted that "market conditions in Australia have been challenging for the category in recent years, with the bakery experiencing significant volume and customer volatility."
The future of the 3.63 hectare Top Taste site, which is zoned light industry, is yet to be determined. The site could lend itself to high-density residential development, which is already prominent in that section of Kedron. According to real estate website Core Logic, the site was valued in June at $8.7 million.
The GWF spokesperson said any decisions relating to the sale or use of the site after the bakery closes would rest with its parent company Associated British Foods.
"Once the site has been closed, the property will be handed back to our parent company. Any future decisions on the property will be managed by them," the spokesperson said. Workers were recently told of the decision to close the bakery and a GWF representative said they were already trying to redeploy staff within the company.
According to IBISWorld, revenue in the cake and pastry manufacturing sector is contracting with a number of unprofitable bakeries and factories closing in recent years.
Newly Weds Foods (Aust) managing director Calvin Boyle said there would be opportunities made available to workers to relocate to Sydney.
"We acquired the biscuit crumb line and we will move it to the western suburbs of Sydney and supply the same customers," Mr Boyle said.
IBISWorld analyst Arna Richardson said increasing health and nutritional awareness had reduced consumption of high-calorie foods such as cakes and pastries. Mr Richardson said the industry also had been hit by aggressive price cutting and competition from in-house brands owned by the major supermarkets chains.
Newly Weds Foods is a Chicago-based family-owned company that started in the 1930s.
The company was built off the back of ice-cream roll cakes and, according to its website, and services a number of Australia-Asian markets including New Zealand, Thailand, Pakistan and Hong Kong.