MARIEMONT, Ohio — The Kellogg Company is planning to eliminate nearly half of the 530 jobs at the former Keebler plant in Mariemont this year, company officials informed the village in early February.
“Kellogg’s has decided to shut down two lines in Mariemont and move production of Zesta and Toasteds (crackers) to a plant in Tennessee,” wrote Tracy Mihas, Kellogg’s senior director for state government relations, in a Feb. 2 email to Mariemont Mayor Bill Brown. The move “negatively impacts approximately 165 hourly roles,” she added.
The email, which Brown provided to WCPO, said Kellogg’s will eliminate an additional 65 hourly jobs by the middle of this year. That's when its contract to make vanilla wafers expires with Ferrera Company, an Italian snack-food maker that purchased Kellogg’s Keebler and Famous Amos cookie brands last April. Mihas also wrote that 20 salaried positions will be impacted by the combined loss of cracker and cookie production.
“I’m distressed,” said Brown, a former village councilman who was elected mayor in 2019. “This has been an issue, though, that’s been percolating out there in this village for years, but it usually always resolves itself. They get a new contract. The guys go back to work, and off we go.”
Brown is hoping to meet with company officials to see if some or all of the cuts can be reversed. He estimates the cuts will cost the village up to $200,000 in annual earnings-tax revenue once fully implemented. Brown said that's a small percentage of Mariemont's $5 million budget, but its annual spending roughly matches revenue. So, it would be difficult to sustain that big a loss without cuts in service or new tax revenue.
“Fortunately, the bulk of the cuts will not happen until the fourth quarter of the year," Brown said. “So, it gives us a teeny bit of breathing room, you know, to sort of analyze the situation (and ask), ‘Is there anything that can be done?’”
The plant has been a fixture in Mariemont for nearly 80 years, dating back to its 1942 origins as the home of the Strietmann Biscuit Company, known for its Zesta soda cracker brand. The plant will continue to produce Club and Townhouse crackers, according to the company’s email.
Kellogg recently announced investments to install a new production line at its Jackson, Tenn., plant and reconfigure an existing line, said Kellogg spokesperson Kris Bahner.
"These changes would allow for future growth in crackers, while providing cost savings to our business," Bahner said. "While this would be the right thing to do for the business, it is never an easy decision to make when people are impacted."