Chun King Corp. to close plant, eliminate 173 jobs


Chun King Corp. will close its Cambridge food processing plant this summer and eliminate 173 jobs as part of a manufacturing consolidation under a new owner, officials said yesterday.

The announcement comes in the wake of a purchase of the Chun King name and trademark last week by Hunt-Wesson Inc., a California-based food concern that makes such products as Wesson Oil and Hunt's Ketchup.

Hunt-Wesson is considering transferring the Chinese canned-food manufacturing operations, which generate estimated annual sales of more than $25 million, from the Eastern Shore to a plant the company owns in Ohio. Employees were informed of the ownership shift last week.

"We're looking to consolidate manufacturing operations because we already have some facilities that are underutilized, and this way we'll create economic efficiencies," said Kay Carpenter, a Hunt-Wesson spokeswoman.

Hunt-Wesson, with $2 billion in annual sales, bought the Chun King name and the rights to manufacture its products from YHS Corp. of Singapore, which had been searching for a buyer for the operation for some time.

Hunt-Wesson is in turn owned by ConAgra Inc., a $23 billion conglomerate that makes Healthy Choice foods and controls Chun King's frozen-product line.

The fate of the 500,000-square-foot Chun King manufacturing facility remains uncertain. Representatives from the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED) are working with YHS to find another operator for the plant, which has been in operation since 1962.

DEED, which was informed of the plant closing last Friday, intends to establish a job service office in Cambridge to assist Chun King workers either in finding a new job or with career training, said Jane Howard, a DEED spokeswoman.

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