Weakened by the Covid crisis, the Biscuiterie Poult de Montauban closes its factory in Aire-sur-l’Adour

It is one of the largest private employers in Montauban with 394 employees. The Poult biscuit factory, which supplies large distribution brands with packets of biscuits, is going on strike this Thursday, September 16. Employees are called to occupy the factory from 5 am and for 24 hours, after the announcement of a social plan. The Aire-sur-l’Adour site, on which 47 employees work, and which produces Breton pancakes and palm-tree biscuits, will close its doors permanently. Thirty additional jobs will be cut at the other sites, in Montauban, in Brittany and in central France.

Since confinement, biscuit sales have been at half mast

The announcement of the closure of the Aire-sur-l’Adour plant is “a brutal decision “ believes Robert Poncharrau, the Force Ouvrière delegate who recognizes, as the management of the Biscuit factory suggests, that the biscuit market is paying for the change in consumption habits since the Covid crisis.

“The habits of the French have changed. During confinement, people were at home, _so_they got used to making their own pastries, which puts the sweet biscuit market in sharp decline in France. Today, we are producing much less than two years ago “, recognizes the trade unionist.

A strawberry tartlet production unit from Biscuiterie Poult de Montauban for major retailer brands
A strawberry tartlet production unit from Biscuiterie Poult de Montauban for major retailer brands © Maxppp

“We don’t know what the future will be. Today is Aire-sur-l’Adour, tomorrow it may be us.” – Robert Poncharrau, Force Ouvrière delegate

“The factory in Aire-sur-l’Adour which manufactures palm trees and Breton pancakes is in decline, and it has only two production lines. The cost of the building, the more this sharp decline, the more the rise in raw materials that today our management takes the decision to relocate a line to Montauban, and another to Fouesnant in Brittany. We don’t know what the future will be. Today is Aire-sur-l’Adour, tomorrow it may be us “, worries Robert Poncharrau, the Force Ouvrière delegate.

According to the management of Biscuits Poult, the 47 employees of Aire-sur-l’Adour can be reclassified at the company’s headquarters in Montauban, but according to the unions, Montauban being two and a half hours from the Landes site, only 10 % of employees would agree to make the trip, the others risk being made redundant.

A model factory bought by an American pension fund

The change in consumption habits of the French does not explain everything. Since the takeover almost two years ago by an American pension fund, the Poult house has changed a lot.

Biscuiterie Poult supplies large retailers
Biscuiterie Poult supplies large retailers
@Group Poult

In Montauban, the venerable biscuit factory founded in 1883 by Émile Poult is best known for the managerial turn adopted in the early 2000s. The boss at the time decided to trust the employees, to unleash their capacity for innovation. It calls on the creativity of all employees to imagine innovative organizational solutions or new products.

So employees find themselves at the helm. “One organizes the teams, the other the production schedules, the hierarchy, it was us “ remembers the Force Ouvrière delegate of the company who still smiles.

Employees become managers. And it works : in ten years, the turnover is multiplied by five. But in 2016, the new shareholder “Qualium Investisement” abruptly put an end to this “liberated company” experience.

The employees of the biscuit factory fall into line. They continue to manufacture strawberry tartlets or bi-chocos for the supermarket chains, Leclerc, Carrefour, Auchan, among others. But since confinement and the Covid, the French are buying fewer cookies. The American “Platinum Equity” fund who bought the company two years ago means remunerate its shareholders and begins to cut into the quick. The Aire-sur-l’Adour factory is going to shut down, as will the factory outlets where we bought Poult biscuits.