Arla Foods UK has announced the final stage of its restructuring plans following its merger with Express Dairies with the proposed closure of plants at Ruislip and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Subject to consultation with staff, the sites will close in January and May 2005 respectively, and follow the closure of the Bamber Bridge dairy in Lancashire, a glass bottling facility in Hatfield and Express Dairies headquarters in Leicestershire.

Chief executive Neil Davidson said the performance of the group’s brands had been “exceptionally strong. In the butter, spreads and margarine sector, Lurpak saw 11% growth in the last year while Anchor grew 1% continuing its recovery. The Cravendale fresh milk brand grew by 34% in the key supermarket sector but still only accounts for 3.5% of that market and has potential for further growth when new capacity comes on stream later in 2005.”

Synergy benefits from the tie-up with Express were proceeding ahead of schedule, while the company had made a net gain of 80m litres since the merger, he said.

Arla recently became the sole supplier of milk to Asda, winning the contract over its rivals Dairy Crest and Robert Wiseman Dairies. Around the same time however, it lost the contract to supply Sainsbury.