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125-year-old Castellini Group cuts 150 produce jobs in Wilder, Ky.

Freestore Foodbank loses big supplier
grocery produce
Posted at 11:18 AM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 18:05:17-05

WILDER, Ky. — The Castellini Group will eliminate 150 jobs at its Campbell County warehouse by March, as part of a three-year strategy to reshape the 125-year-old produce company into a supply-chain service provider.

The company said the cuts will impact less than 10% of its workforce. A WARN Act notice with the state of Kentucky said 47 truck drivers will lose their jobs, along with 28 management employees, 24 warehouse workers and eight quality control technicians.

The company also replaced its CEO Feb. 1. Brian Kocher left to take a similar job in California. He was replaced by former Chief Financial Officer Chris Larsen.

“Market conditions changed significantly over the past decade and produce buyers across the industry increasingly source their product directly from the grower,” Kocher said in a Jan. 19 press release.

“Change is always difficult,” Larsen added. “But we can only provide the support our customers require by reconfiguring the workforce, our support infrastructure, and our investment priorities. This is the final step in our strategy implementation.”

Castellini expanded its Wilder facility two years ago when it consolidated two of its Northern Kentucky subsidiaries into its Wilder location. WARN Act notices in January 2020 said the company eliminated 80 jobs at Grant County Foods in Dry Ridge and 39 jobs at the Crosset Company in Independence.

Wilder City Administrator Terry Vance said Castellini will likely remain the city’s largest employer after the cuts, but he’s not sure how they will impact the city’s budget in 2022 and beyond.

"They're still here," Vance said. "It's just a shift in the type of business they're doing."

Vance hopes to replace lost tax revenue with new development projects. He declined to provide details.

The Freestore Foodbank will also be impacted by Castellini’s restructuring.

“They provided last year alone, just to our Liberty Street market here, about half million pounds of fresh produce,” CEO Kurt Reiber said. “I’d say we’ve replaced about a third of it so far” by working with regional food cooperatives and local growers.

Castellini Group won an $8 million contract last year to distribute fresh produce all over the midwest.

Reiber said he is talking to Castellini about increasing its cash donations and providing boxed meals to the nonprofit. Last July, the company landed an $8 million assignment from the Partnership for a Healthy America to supply 10.3 million servings of fresh fruits and vegetables to 17,250 families in 10 midwestern states.

“We’re hoping to be able to get some of those products we can then distribute out through our pantries,” Reiber said.