Arla Foods UK has said it will close its HT Webb imported cheese distribution company early next year.

The small financial returns to be made from cutting, wrapping and distributing specialist cheese products manufactured by other companies have been blamed for the decision. Arla bought HT Webb in November 2002 but now the 170 staff at its plant in Northfleet, Kent, face an uncertain future

Arla Foods UK executive director Tim Smith, who was unwilling to divulge specific figures, said: “We have had a year to look at the component parts of its business portfolio and have decided this just doesn’t fit for us. It is difficult to make money out of speciality cheeses if you are not manufacturing them.” HT Webb would need to undergo major changes to become financially viable, he added.