Hundreds of jobs in danger in Toronto bakery closure

An industrial bakery is going to turn off its ovens after decades of operation in Toronto's west-end, putting hundreds of people out of work.

Encroaching neighbourhood, high costs to modernize plant factored into decision

More than 500 people work at the bakery owned by Mondelez Canada Inc., in Etobicoke. Coun. Mark Grimes says that many of those jobs could be lost as a result of a pending plant closure that will occur in the fall of next year. (Google Maps)

The owner of the Mr.Christie plant in Toronto says it will close the cookie factory in the third quarter of 2013, putting some 550 employees out of work.

Mondelez Canada said Thursday the decision to close the 625,000 square-foot biscuit manufacturing plant, which has been making cookies since 1948 was difficult, but necessary as the infrastructure ages and the area around it gentrifies.

"This is a difficult decision, given the role this facility has played within our organization and in the community for 64 years," said Alvaro Cuba, vice-president of operations for Mondelez Canada.

"However, the plant faces some unique challenges resulting from the changing neighbourhood surrounding the facility."

The area surrounding the plant just west of Toronto's crane-dotted Liberty Village, is quickly developing into a trendy neighbourhood of homes and shops.

"While this was an appropriate location for a large bakery when it was first built, the significant residential development surrounding it has led to operating constraints that will become increasingly difficult with the further residential expansion that is underway," Cuba said.

He added that the plant's infrastructure is aging and further investment is not an economical option "therefore, we have determined it is best to close the facility because it no longer supports our strategy of making the most efficient use of our manufacturing assets."

The 550 employees were informed of the plans earlier Thursday.

Etobicoke-Lakeshore Coun. Mark Grimes said it was not yet clear if all of the 550 jobs will be eliminated as a result of the pending closure.

"We're going to lose a lot of them, but I think some will go the plants out in Scarborough — I don’t have those numbers — but some will go south of the’s a bad day, for not only my community, but for the City of Toronto."

Some employees who spoke to CBC News said they have been told they have 10 more months of work.

The company said it is making the announcement nearly a year ahead of the planned closure to help provide employees with a "smooth transition."

Some of the current production at the bakery will be moved to its bakeries in Montreal and east Toronto, and the rest will be split between its other North American plants.

Mondelez Canada Inc. is a subsidiary of Mondelez International, Inc., which comprises the snacking and food brands of the former Kraft Foods Inc. following the spin-off of its North American grocery operations in October.

Mondelez International's portfolio includes brands such as Cadbury and Milka chocolate, Jacobs coffee, LU, Nabisco and Oreo biscuits, Tang powdered beverages and Trident gum.

Grimes and another Toronto city councillor said Thursday that they have seen a proposal to build condominium buildings on the land where the bakery currently stands.

With files from the CBC's Charlsie Agro and Jamie Strashin