EIGHTEEN people are at risk of being made redundant as a Kendal factory restructures its operations.

Kendal Nutricare, which manufactures nutrition products including Kendamil infant formula, said the move was due to a restructuring of its packaging operations.

The Gazette understands the restructure follows the end of a contract to pack products for a major food brand.

The company said 16 roles in packaging production and two administration posts have been put at risk of redundancy.

A two-week consultation process began on Thursday, January 16, with the company – one of the town’s biggest employers – saying it was doing all it could to support staff affected.

It would take the total number of jobs at the factory on Kendal’s Lake District Business Park down to 116.

The company did not rule out additional employment opportunities in the future as it looks for further expansion of its own products, but said it needed to make the change “at this time”.

Chief executive Ross McMahon said the move would allow it to reduce its contract cereal packaging operation to concentrate on its own-brand product, Kendamil.

Mr McMahon, who took on the factory with just 88 staff in 2015, said: “We have decided that to meet the current and future growth of our own premium product range, we would need to step aside from the contract packing business.

“As with all copack contracts they are subject to confidentiality agreements so we can’t discuss the details of those arrangements.

“The end result is that we can now have longer runs of production of our own products. The factory is only at 20 per cent capacity and we have plans to expand that.

“To achieve that and maximise the opportunities in the marketplace, we need to change the way we operate.

“We have a world-class team and expert formulators, and we are excited about the opportunities which lie ahead by further expansion of our own high-quality, British-made products.”

The firm exports to 25 countries around the world, with sales of Kendamil growing at an average annual rate of 400 per cent since 2016, serving a total available market of 2.7 billion people around the world, and expanding into 30,000 outlets globally.

In addition, it has 220 British farms in its supply chain.

The company says its exports of Kendamil to China have grown to account for almost two per cent of all British food and drink exports to the region. It is also doing business in other parts of Asia such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia, with Taiwan and Thailand marked for expansion in 2020.

In Europe, Kendal Nutricare recently expanded into Spain, Italy and Poland, and its products will soon be available in Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The company also produces Kendalife “wellness shakes” created to accompany a healthy diet as well as to tackle issues including diabetics and joint pains.

Mr McMahon said the company was focused on enhancing its environmental credentials by using zero palm oil in its products and sourcing plant-based Omega 3 - making it the UK’s only vegetarian formula.

He said: “Modern consumers care about where their product comes from, the ingredients that are in that product and the nutrition they provide, and increasingly, if the product is sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

“By bringing to the market a high-quality British made, organic full cream milk formula, vegetarian-friendly and with zero palm oil, we are able to satisfy consumers on every aspect that is important to them.”