Nestlé to shut Co Limerick infant formula plant with loss of 542 jobs

Food giant with operation in Askeaton says sharply lower demand in China for imported baby milk formula has forced it to reconsider its network

Food giant Nestlé has blamed falling demand for imported infant formula in China for the closure of its Wyeth Nutrition plant in Askeaton, Co Limerick and the likely loss of 542 jobs.

In an announcement on Wednesday, the Swiss group said that it would cease operations at the plant in the first quarter of 2026. A research and development unit located alongside the manufacturing plant, which was only opened four years ago, will shut down a year before that. A total of 491 people work in the factory, with 51 employed at the R&D facility.

Nestlé, one of the three big global infant formula groups, acquired the Limerick plant as part of its $11.85 billion purchase of Pfizer Nutrition back in 2012. However, the value of the Irish business has been written down by over €100 million in the past three years.

All of the factory’s output is exported, mainly to markets in China and elsewhere in Asia. The group said that demand for infant formula in China had been “significantly impacted” by “external trends”.


The number of babies born in the country has halved over the past seven years to a projected nine million this year at a time when the birth rate had been expected to rise, the company said.

China has also rebuilt its once-discredited domestic infant formula industry, reducing demand for imported products.

Volumes of infant formula produced at Askeaton fell 11 per cent last year, according to results for Wyeth Nutritionals Ireland filed recently, continuing a trend of decline over recent years

Nestlé said infant formula production at Askeaton, which first opened back in 1974, would be transferred to two of its other factories, one in Suzhou, in China and the other in Konolfingen, Switzerland.

“We will now consult with all employees and their representative unions,” the company said in a statement. “Regrettably, today’s announcement means approximately 542 colleagues will be placed at risk of redundancy.

The company said it had not been able to find a buyer for the plant. while, amid the shock of the announcement, local sources said there had been no knowledge of any such effort. Nestlé said it “remained open to approaches from a credible buyer” even as it consults with staff over the site’s proposed closure.

The decision will come as a significant financial blow to Limerick City and County Council, given the Askeaton plant pays close to €490,000 a year in commercial rates.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney described the decision as “hugely disappointing”, noting that the factory had provided “fantastic employment in Limerick and made a huge contribution to Ireland’s economy”.

He promised the full range of State supports would be made available to employees.

Representatives of trade union Siptu called for an urgent meeting with Nestlé Wyeth Nutritionals management as they urged it to reverse the “horrendous” decision on closure.

“We are also calling for immediate intervention from the Government to save these jobs that are so vital to the midwest region.” said Siptu sector organiser, Neil McGowan

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times