POCATELLO — Heinz officials say they are planning to lay off 80 full-time employees at their Pocatello facility next month due to a change in production needs.

    Spokesperson Jessica Jackson said they told employees about the decision on Tuesday, but they haven’t yet notified the individuals who will be affected.

    A statement released to the media said the layoff will impact “80 full-time, hourly team members, effective March 4, 2013.”

    Jackson said the company is phasing out its T.G.I. Friday’s frozen meals and is turning its efforts toward increasing sales of the brand’s popular frozen snacks and appetizers. As a result, the production needs are changing at the Pocatello facility, which produces the frozen meals, and fewer workers are needed.

    Officials say they will maintain 400-plus full-time employees at the facility to produce frozen entrées and snacks, but they will be making some additional adjustments to the production schedule.

    “The factory also will be adjusting its production schedule to maximize efficiency and effectively manage costs, and ensure the talents of the remaining hourly workforce are being properly leveraged,” according to the statement issued Tuesday.

    Jackson said the employees impacted by the layoff will continue to receive health care benefits through the end of March. And Dan Cravens, the regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor in Pocatello, said employment specialists will be available to help those looking for new jobs.

    “Our hearts go out to the workers and the families affected by the layoffs,” he said. “The Idaho Department of Labor will certainly make itself available to help them find new and suitable employment.”

    Cravens said it is unfortunate that the company is laying off 80 employees, especially since food-related manufacturing is an important part of the economy in southeast Idaho. But he said there are still other opportunities in the area for the employees.

    “Luckily we’re seeing net job gains in the region,” he said, adding that Allstate Insurance Company recently announced plans to hire 225 employees for its emergency Roadside Services division in Chubbuck. “A lot of businesses are doing well. This is a setback, but something we can overall absorb most likely.”