Tropicana to lay off a dozen Bradenton workers

jsalman@bradenton.comAugust 14, 2012 

BRADENTON — Tropicana will lay off about a dozen workers at its Bradenton facility by the end of the month for cost savings, a company spokesman said.

The juice giant has seen its sales squeezed by the recession as consumers turn to more value-oriented brands, a trend that has Tropicana unveiling new-look bottles and marketing efforts to keep pace.

Division managers met Tuesday with the 1,200 some workers in groups at the Bradenton plant to discuss the cuts, leaving the possibility open for more to come later this year.

“As a result of continued operational efficiencies at our Bradenton facility, we’re making a small reduction in our workforce,” Tropicana spokesman Michael Torres said. “We’ve made this difficult decision after considerable thought, and we’re being as supportive of the effected employees as possible.”

Parent PepsiCo Inc., the world’s largest snack-food maker, has announced plans to cut 8,700 jobs across the globe to offset high commodity costs and inject new investment into advertising in North America. The company estimates the plan will save $3 billion.

In its latest quarterly report filed July 25, PepsiCo reported $16.46 billion in net revenue, down 2 percent from the same quarter a year ago. During that time, the company’s net income has slid 21 percent to $1.5 billion. It remains unclear if the Tropicana cuts are a part of PepsiCo’s broader cost-savings plan.

Founded in 1953, Tropicana is the largest purchaser of fruit in Florida, processing 60 million boxes of fruit a season, or 1.2 million oranges each day between November and mid-June.

The layoffs confirmed Tuesday are not seasonal.

The company is among a handful of industry giants now battling a series of lawsuits concerned with the amount of processing that goes into a product labelled as “100 percent natural.”

Workers who called in to the Bradenton Herald on Tuesday said the mood around the Bradenton plant is one of “worry.” Since 2008, the facility’s work force has slowly shrunk by at least 200 jobs, records show.

“Everybody is walking around on edge,” said a Tropicana loading dock worker. “People are concerned. Everybody is worried.”

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman

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