A union has called for an urgent meeting with consumer goods giant Unilever amid fears over iconic Manchester tea brand PG Tips.
Unilever said it was considering the future of its tea brands globally and had launched a review.
The PG Tips plant in Trafford Park employs hundreds of workers, with around 150 of them represented by the Unite union.
Unite’s regional officer, Jimmy Carter, said in a statement: “Unite is demanding an urgent meeting with Unilever over the future of PG Tips and other tea brands and the impact this could have on our members.
“Before any decision is made, there must be a full consultation with Unite. We urge Unilever not to sell what are still very popular and profitable brands.
“If a sale is decided upon, Unilever must only consider bids from reputable buyers who have long-term and sustainable plans for the business.
“Whatever happens, Unite will fight to ensure our members’ jobs and terms and conditions are not put in the firing line during this process.”
The Trafford Park site is believed to be Unilever’s main manufacturing site for PG Tips.
Arthur Brooke opened his first tea shop in Manchester in 1869, which went on to become the famous Brooke Bond company.
PG Tips was created in 1930 – a name abbreviated down from ‘pre-gest tea’, so-called because it was said to aid digestion.
The first tea bags were made in 1960 and the PG Tips adverts featuring chimpanzees dressed as humans and voiced by actors ran for years on television.
Brooke Bond’s illustrated cards inside packets were also collected by generations of children.
According to reports, Unilever is said to be ‘looking at all options’ with regards to its tea business, including selling off parts of it.
Unite said it wanted assurances from the company for UK workers who could be impacted.
According to research, tea remains a multi-million pound industry in the UK, although sales of black tea have reportedly slowed as more people buy herbal varieties.
Unilever announced the review of its global tea business as it revealed a slump in annual profits.
The company, which also owns Lipton ice tea and other brands including Magnum and Hellmans, reported a 33 per cent drop in pre-tax profits to 8.3 billion euro (£7 billion) for 2019, having suffered a marked slowdown in its South Asian business and weaker trading in China.
It posted a better-than-feared 1.5 per cent rise in underlying sales over the fourth quarter, but reiterated warnings that 2020 underlying sales would be in the lower half of its 3-5 per cent targeted range, and be below 3 per cent in the first half.
Alan Jope, chief executive of Unilever, pledged to ramp up turnaround efforts, including cost-saving plans and the global tea review.
He said: “We are now stepping up execution against our fundamental drivers of growth.
“These are to: increase penetration by improving brand awareness and availability; implement a more impactful innovation programme; improve our performance in faster growing channels; drive purpose into all our brands; and fuel growth through cost savings.”
He added: “We are continuing to evaluate our portfolio and have initiated a strategic review of our global tea business.”
Brooke Bond was bought by Unilever in 1984.
Unilever said the announcement didn’t specifically relate to PG Tips, but its global tea business.
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