Supermarket chain Asda has started consulting with more than 1,000 staff over its plans to overhaul its in-store bakeries.
The company said that it was treating redundancy as “the last option” during the consultations, which it said was sparked by changing tastes among shoppers.
As many as 1,200 staff work at the in-store bakeries across 341 Asda branches.
“If the proposals are enacted, the priority will be to move as many colleagues as possible into alternative roles within Asda, with redundancy the last option,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
Customers are increasingly looking for speciality breads, wraps, bagels and pancakes ahead of traditional loaves.
The shift will see a centralised bakery delivering a larger range of pre-baked goods to supermarkets each day, replacing the current model where the goods are baked from scratch on site.
Asda chief merchandising officer Derek Lawlor said: “The current in-store bakery model has restricted our ability to respond to changing customer demands and offer them the speciality products and freshly baked goods they want to buy throughout the day.
“The changes we are proposing will deliver a much better and more consistent bakery offering for customers across all our stores. We know these proposed changes will be unsettling for colleagues and our priority is to support them during this process.”
The move was criticised by the GMB union who said it was bad for consumers and employees alike.
Roger Jenkins, GMB national officer said: “Asda’s plans to scrap baking their products from scratch on site and replace them with part-baked products from mass producers is not good for the consumer.
“Over 1,000 skilled bakers are now at risk of losing their jobs. GMB calls on Asda to retain these valuable skilled employees and continue to offer the customer truly fresh produce baked by professional bakers.”
Asda’s move follows a similar decision by Tesco, taken just over a year ago, which put up to 1,800 jobs at risk.
The chain said at the time it would do less baking from scratch in stores, citing a similar shift away from traditional loaves and bread.
Asda was sold by US giant Walmart for £6.8 billion in December last year to Mohsin and Zuber Issa, brothers who made their billions from petrol stations.
However the decision to slash the bakeries was taken independently of the Issa brothers. The Competition and Markets Authority has taken out an order which prevents them exercising influence over Asda until it can assess the deal.