YoCrunch plant in Naugatuck closing

The YoCrunch plant on Spring Street in Naugatuck. The company’s parent is closing the plant here and moving 147 jobs. -AARON JOHNSON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Danone North America, subsidiary of French parent company Danone, filed on Monday notice to the state that it is closing the YoCrunch facility in Naugatuck.

The closing, planned for March of next year, will eliminate 147 local jobs in the borough.

“We deeply regret the impact this planned closure will have on our employees and our supply partners in the community surrounding this location,” Danone North America spokesman Michael Neuwirth said. “We will work diligently to assist them as they look for other employment and customer opportunities both internally and externally.”

The Paris-based company purchased YoCrunch, producer of yogurts with flavored toppings, in 2013. Danone reported at the time that YoCrunch had net annual sales of $110 million.
Neuwirth said YoCrunch yogurt production will continue in sister facilities in other parts of the country.

Tuesday evening an employee leaving the facility at 162 Spring St. looked visibly upset but declined to comment.

Ronald Pugliese, chief executive officer of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, said, while he wasn’t happy with the decision, he does not think it was anything to do with the borough.

“Obviously, I am very disappointed,” he said. “I feel this is a decision made on a corporate level and I certainly don’t think it has anything to do with Naugatuck or with the services the town has provided them.”

Pugliese said he was notified of the closing by the state and that he has tried reaching out to the company unsuccessfully.

The company took advantage of the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Enterprise Zone Program, a five-year, 80 percent abatement of local personal property taxes twice — once in 2012 and again in 2016, according to information on the DECD’s website.

Tax Collector James Goggin said the company this year paid $12,327 in personal property taxes for its location at 162 Spring St. and $13,429 for its location at 80 Rado Drive. Without the abatement, the taxes on the properties would have been $278,809 and $228,485, respectively.

Under the program, the company is responsible for 20 percent of the taxes and the state is expected to pay the municipality 40 percent of the taxes, and the town is expected forgive 40 percent of the taxes.

Assessor Carol Ann Tyler said the state did not make its payment to the borough for the 2017 taxes. This payment would have been approximately $203,000.

“The town is stuck with 80 percent of the real estate exemption,” Tyler said.

Department of Economic and Community Development spokesman Jim Watson could not be reached for comment.

YoCrunch was founded in 1984 as YoFarm Yogurt Co. in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Founder Josef Dansky, a trained dessert and dairy products marketeer, started by producing a single-serve gelled dessert and then moved into the yogurt market. Experimenting with different flavors and cup sizes, he moved to Naugatuck when he decided to buy the space on Spring Street, where a dairy business was for sale.

In 1991, YoFarm introduced a granola topping for its yogurt, creating a niche market: a “mix-in.”

The company first changed hands in 1997, when equity firm Stolberg Partners bought it. A year later, the top-selling YoCrunch Cookies ‘n Cream with Oreo cookies hit the market and quickly became its best-selling product.

The YoCrunch brand offers vanilla yogurt with toppings packaged separately in the same container that the customer can mix into the yogurt.
Danone reported over $29 billion in sales last year and sales growth of 2.5 percent. It employs over 100,000 people in over 60 countries and reported 66 percent of its sales from outside Europe, namely in the United States and China.

According to Statista, U.S. yogurt sales grew from $6.2 billion in 2011 to $7.6 billion last year.

Luke Marshall contributed to this article.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated from the original post to include comments from Naugatuck Tax Collector James Goggin and Assessor Carol Ann Tyler.