International food giant Nestlé has announced its plans to close its baby formula manufacturing plant in Askeaton, Limerick, Ireland by 2026 as a result of a drastically sinking formula demand in China. The research and development (R&D) unit at the same location is also planned to close in Q1 2025. It will mean over 540 job losses if the plan goes ahead.
The facility operates as Wyeth Nutritionals Ireland, and was acquired by Nestlé in 2012, from Pfizer Nutrition. Efforts to find a buyer for the Askeaton plant have not been successful. Nestlé proposes to move the production to two existing locations: Suzhou, China and Konolfingen, Switzerland. Konolfingen also hosts the global R&D centre of Wyeth and Nestlé. A Shanghai R&D centre will be ‘strengthened’ as well.
In a statement Nestlé said, ‘The number of newborn babies in China has declined sharply from some 18 million per year in 2016 to fewer than 9 million projected in 2023. The market, which had previously been reliant on imported infant formula products, is also seeing rapid growth in locally-produced products.’
China’s population saw a decline for the first time in six decades in 2022, dropping by roughly 850,000 to hit 1.41175 billion. The shrink comes after sharp drops in both marriage and birth rates, with the country becoming the second most costly in the world to raise children. Both local authorities and the private sector are rallying to battle the acute demographic change.