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Linwoods to cut 90 jobs in latest blow to the Northern Ireland economy

By Margaret Canning

Food company Linwoods is making 90 of its 250 staff redundant as it faces falling demand for white bread and other changing tastes.

The firm produces milk and bread as well as health food products such as flaxseed, nuts and berries from its premises outside Armagh city.

But the firm, which is led by John Woods, said it was closing down its van sales business as it restructures.

It said it was responding to "significant and long-term change in market demand".

"As a result, the workforce at Linwoods' Monaghan Road headquarters in Armagh will be reduced by approximately 90 full-time employees," a statement said.

The changes mean around a third of its workforce will leave, although its bakery production and health foods business are not affected.

It is the latest in a series of job loss announcements from local firms this year.

Around 1,000 jobs are to go, including 240 at energy company AES following the shutdown of Kilroot Power Station, around 95 in Wrightbus in Ballymena, 145 at collapsed firm Williams Industrial Services, 200 at Lagan Construction Group and 125 at Sensata Technologies.

In addition, oil services firm Schlumberger confirmed plans announced last year to close its Newtownabbey plant with the loss of 200 jobs.

Family business Linwoods started up with a small shop 60 years ago but diversified into health foods in 2002.

It now sells its health foods across the UK, Europe and Asia.

It has 250 full-time and 45 casual employees.

Mr Woods, joint managing director, said: "This is obviously a very difficult decision for our company today and our priority is our people.

"We will do all that we can to make this process as smooth as we can for them and their families.

"Linwoods has been a business at the heart of the Co Armagh community for a long time and in order to continue to do this we have had to react to a change in the requirements of our market.

"Our customers' buying habits have changed and we have seen the demand for 800g white bread falling dramatically in recent years.

"When this is combined with the increasing costs for distribution of our bakery and dairy products, it has become a wholly unviable prospect for the future of our business.

"In comparison to this, our health food business is growing and continues to be successful around the world.

"Our focus and our investment will now be placed on this side of the business."

In an interview with Business Telegraph three years ago Mr Woods (76) described how a health scare prompted him to change his diet and invest in milled flaxseed, now one of the firm's key products.

"In 1996, I had a health set-back and needed a heart bypass operation," he explained.

He said he changed his eating habits and investigated the health benefits of mill flaxseed, which he started to sell to health shops around Northern Ireland before making it a major part of his business.

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