Report - - Vibixa, Cheltenham 27/12 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Vibixa, Cheltenham 27/12


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
This is a sad tale. A story of skulduggery, underhand politics and boardroom hypocrisy, of mis-management on an epic scale. A fundamentally flawed business plan and ego ridden senior management team. Of a factory who loyally served their master for 55 years before being casually discarded in the wake of foreign 'investment.'

Everyone has a life or work story to tell. This is mine.



Owned outright by Weetabix the former 6 acre dairy farm site was set up in 1949 to print all of it's cereal cartons. Having complete ownership meant Weetabix could control quality and could influence production schedules at will- which they frequently did. The name means 'German Biscuit.'

Turning out around 7 million cartons a week and with pre-tax profits of £18.6M last year, Vibixa was still a profit making company when closed down.


Things went downhill with the retirement of the old school MD and the arrival of a new one. Known to be harsh, rumours started that the previous two companies he'd chaired had shut, he was being brought in to 'restructure.' If the definition of that is misinforming, misleading and ignoring problems, then he definitely did that.

The formation of a senior management team, and all the in-house fighting that ensured, soon had us all familiar with terms such as 'cascading information/ no running red lights with us/ touching base/ all rowing in the same direction/ looking under the bonnet' etc etc. Affectionately known as the 'Fat Controller' he loved his business cliches. And his doughnuts. It was just people he couldn't deal with.


Brought by Bright Foods (of Chinese poisoning baby food fame,) who purchased 60% of the company two years earlier and despite promises of investment and growth did nothing. Then when the option to buy the remaining 40% became available they grabbed that too. Promises of no redundancies and huge growth dried up when the ink on the contract did. The writing had well and truly been etched on the wall.

Why Weetabix, a company advertising itself as a family brand full of life's values would decide to accept their offer over others, or be associated with a company just 4 years earlier who was responsible for putting melamine into baby milk powder ( with an estimated 300k victims,) or indeed with a company already under monopoly commission investigation is anyone’s guess. I wouldn't imply that it was all very underhand, illegal and certain promises were made to certain people that they would be looked after (nudge, nudge, wink, wink,) if they did certain things- if you know what i mean. Or that the contracts and machinery were sold out beneath us before we had chance to tender a counter-offer. No, that would be wrong. And i certainly wouldn't let slip that one of the senior managers went immediately to work for the new rival company either. Sadly for him, and much to our merriment, as the last piece of machinery was loaded away and the very last staff left the site, he was sacked. Or should I say, ‘left to spend more time with his family.’ And presumably his shredder too.


Edwardian ink mixer.

The dreaded boardroom.
‘You place your leaders and place your trust-as their lies wash you down and their promises rust.’

The rot had started...


With everyone now obviously sold out and the ship sinking ( perhaps we weren't ALL rowing in the same direction after all?) we endured out dated machinery, freezing working conditions, entire areas declared unsafe and restricted and leaking roofs. The management team safely cocooned in their new £90k 'super office' went on a spending spree that would leave Ken Dodd's accountant shaking his head in disbelief. Think along the lines of £30k wasted on a canteen, £30k to re-tarmac the carpark, £20k on new manager toilets, £12k on decorating a corridor, £50k on a time and motion study, and approx £45k to get everyones CV's up to date before closing- although the managers were done first despite them leaving last..

The £12k corridor

The managers toilets.

Ours weren't quite so fresh...

Onto the shopfloor then. Pics taken over several months as time allowed. Ignoring the design/ art room and offices, the factory was mainly made up of the 3 departments. Print, Cut and Crease and Gluing. Large blank cardboard sheets were printed before going to C/C where they were cut to shape and 'crease' folds stamped into the carton making a deliberate weak point to ensure a clean fold for the Gluing department- where they were folded and glued. The actual product was later inserted at Weetabix.

Print department

Gluing department


Part of the Engineers home



Never nice to see years of coursework, notes and hard work discarded. Especially when it's yours.

Four people could run the entire c/c dept on nightshift. This is where they sat when they weren’t running.


When the news broke that the deal was done and the fact that there probably wouldn’t be any money left for fair redundancy packages, if any, the constant denials from the management and total lack of respect shown to us throughout, not to mention the HR woman ‘leaving’ suddenly meant we were on our own.

We fought back with papers, tv, internet, radio,local MP’s, union meetings, and demonstrations even getting it mentions in The House Of Lords and Commons but twas to no avail. On February 14th this year (nice timing,) the first wave of redundancies left. On April 1st (nice timing again,) the final wave left 'Concentration Camp V' for the very last time. With fair redundancy packages



Warehouse One in it's prime...

And today...

Apologies for poor mobile shots, security was uber tight towards the end and besides, all empty warehouses look the same to me...


Now owned by Superdry clothing who are aggressively buying property throughout Cheltenham, the site is rumoured to be turned into their new HQ. The two huge, newer warehouses will probably stay but expect the condemned 70’s offices to be replaced with something suitably swish/vulgar/overpriced/made in India for pennies and sold over here for a huge profit. (Delete as appropriate.)

Offices crammed with yesteryears memories, or todays rubbish.


Trusty drinks holder

Stig's toilet

Waste ink barrel


Once full with 104 good staff going about their business 24/7 it's now got a handful of whistling workmen in hi-viz cheerfully ripping the machinery out and a security company patrolling outside. It's a sombre experience for me, working here for 18 years and seeing friends belongings skipped or thrown on the floor, my stuff too. The machinery we worked on day and night, year after year now being torn down- most stuff in perfectly good condition being scrapped just to stop rival companies getting it. Their apathy disgusts .

Popping our heads around a corner we see the Edwardian ink mixer, a beautiful cast iron reminder from an all together classier age, which took centre stage in reception for many years lying broken at the bottom of a skip.

An undignified end to a massive chapter in my life and also Cheltenham's history, to all the people who worked there, the jobs it created and the loyalty it repaid it’s parent company. To all my old friends, workmates and colleagues shafted by fund swelling and not enough hands on hearts, I raise a glass. Goodbye Vibixa, life will never be quite the same again.

THE END. Literally.

Dave W

Industrial Pornographer
Regular User
It's a "Columbian" Printing Press. Not an ink mixer.
I believe the Times newspaper was once printed on them. Worth about 5k on the second hand market today.
The eagles off the top usually get nicked.

A somewhat depressing post but thanks for sharing - as a weetabix eater I feel somewhat disappointed



Fear is the little death.
Regular User
Great report but must of been thoroughly disheartening for you to put it together, I can see why you were so pissed off about it at the time.

Good to see you out and about again though :thumb


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Will do mate, difficult to get out at moment but if it's local I will. Still catching up all I've missed on here too...

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