Unite the Union, which represents 160 of the drivers and warehouse workers affected, described the news as a "devastating blow", and said it was seeking further clarification regarding the full impact of the plans.
Coca-Cola Enterprises employs 4,400 staff across the UK, it's principal manufacturing base, and said that following a strategic review - which ascertained that the service was used by to service its foodservice clients in Great Britain: pubs, restaurants, catering operations - it had identified the need for a "more efficient way of distributing our products to these customers".
CCE's foodservice clients do not include convenience stores, and represent less than 5% of the company's distribution service to its customers.
“Under these proposals we would end our direct delivery service towards the latter part of this year, by which time we will have put in place alternative distribution arrangements for customers," CCE said.
“Until then, there will be no changes to our current operation and we will work closely with customers to ensure the highest service levels during this period of change.”
CCE seeks to 'minimize redundancies'
BeverageDaily.com understands that there is a more industry-wide shift within the food and beverage industry towards more integrated solutions - using the likes of Brakes Group, 3663, Palmer & Harvey, all UK distributors - where everything is delivered all in one hit to customers from centralized depots, rather than, say, Coke being delivered separately.
Asked for more details on new food service distribution arrangements, a CCE spokeswoman told BeverageDaily.com: “We propose to partner with wholesalers to offer our remaining direct delivery customers a route to market, building on the services these third parties already provide. Under these proposals we would continue to operate a bulk and mid-bulk service.
Discussing the effect upon staff, CCE added: “We have now started a full consultation on these proposals with our employee representative bodies and the Unite trade union. If these changes were implemented they could result in the loss of approximately 288 roles from a total workforce in Great Britain of 4400."
The company added that it did not make the proposals lightly and sought to minimize redundancies as far as possible, and would offer support to affected staff.
Unite read rumors in 'The Grocer'
But Unite national officer for food, drink and tobacco, Jennie Formby, told BeverageDaily.com this morning: "Obviously they will try to find whether there's any opportunity for people elsewhere, but I'm not sure where that's going to be, because there aren't so many other vacancies going around the business. So it is 288 jobs going.
"We didn't know there was such a significant change on the cards - the company certainly didn't warn us. We saw reports in [BeverageDaily.com's sister title, The Grocer] earlier this month and asked the company, but they didn't say anything."
On the rationale for the switch from DSD, Formby said: "They haven't given us the detail of what they're doing. We've literally just had the announcement and proper consultations start next week. But they say the route to market is very different to what it used to be."
"We are now in the process of gaining much more information on CCE's business plan, so that we can determine what the best response is going to be."