Sanitarium sells off factory

TESS MCCLURE
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014

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One of New Zealand's iconic brands is selling off its Christchurch factory.

Sanitarium's Papanui factory was responsible for Weet-Bix and Marmite production until it was damaged in the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake.

The brand shifted Weet-Bix production to Auckland in 2012, resulting in the loss of 36 jobs in Christchurch.

Since then, the factory has been repaired, but Sanitarium announced this week that the Christchurch factory building had been sold, and distribution would be centralised to Auckland. The shift of distribution will result in the loss of four jobs.

Sanitarium general manager Pierre van Heerden said the company retained the right to lease back the Marmite-making section of the factory for up to five years. Marmite production would, for now, continue at the site.

Van Heerden would not comment on whether the company would maintain the lease for the full five years, or on what would happen at the end of that five year period.

"We haven't made any decisions on what we will do at that stage. We will consider the various options that we have."

Van Heerden said the company had decided to sell the property because since shifting Weet-Bix facilities, the Marmite production occupied only a "small portion" of the Harewood Rd site.

"There's a large unutilised site, and it made sense to look at the opportunities. We believe a new owner will be able to better utilise the portion that we don't use and they will be able to generate more jobs more investment in the community. So I believe it is a good thing overall for Christchurch."

He would not disclose the identity of the buyer. Settlement on the purchase is due to be completed by the end of May.

The Christchurch Sanitarium factory has produced Weet-Bix and Marmite since the 1970s. The closure of the factory following earthquake damage led to a nation-wide marmite shortage.

Van Heerden said Marmite sales were now back up pre-quake levels.

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