News - 07 May 2014

Taste of Things to Come is Not Pie in the Sky

Nottingham company Pork Farms sells 160 million products every year either within its own branded portfolio or for key retailers such as Asda, M&S and Sainsbury’s. The company employs almost 1,000 people at its two sites in the city.

Alongside its traditional pork pies, its range of products now includes quiches, flans, pies and even gluten-free pastry.

Since establishing the business as a private company in January 2007, following its acquisition from Northern Foods, new product lines have been added. In 2006 former owner Northern Foods was in poor shape with a significant pension deficit. The company offered to plug it with a £160 million sale of parts of the business.

In January 2007, Vision Capital stepped in to buy Pork Farms. Chris Peters and Mark Hodson were part of the management team of Pork Farms. They quickly re-structured the operation.

The firm had six sites scattered across the country, some making similar products.

Scotch eggs and fried products were made in Shaftesbury, sausage rolls and pies in Market Drayton in Shropshire, quiche in Trafford Park outside Manchester and pork pies in Trowbridge. Nottingham had two sites making quiche and pork pies. The firm employed 2,800 and had a turnover of £137 million.

“The way the sites were organised meant they were competing against each other, for instance three sites making pork pies, four making sausage rolls, two making quiches,” said Mr Peters. “On top of that, the assets were terribly under-invested. The fabric was tired, the machinery poor.

Northern Foods had been investing in ready-meals. We put in straightforward management. The transition was difficult.” Added to this was the protected geographical status that tightly restricting where the Melton Mowbray pork pie could be made. The boundary touches the banks of the River Trent at Queen’s Drive but goes no further.

About £20m has been invested in the two Nottingham factories. factories, Riverside and Queen’s Drive, and the investment continues at the rate of £3 million a year. All pork pies – Melton Mowbrays made of pork and those made in a hoop – plus pink pies made of cured meat – are now made in Nottingham. The Queen’s Drive factory is the only UK manufacturer capable of making every aspect of a pork pie so that it can deliver the full range of varieties sought by retailers and consumers.

Riverside Bakery, little more than a stone’s throw from Queen’s Drive, is the country’s leading manufacturer of chilled quiches. It has its own specialist manufacturing facility and development team which drives product innovation and quality. State-of-the art manufacturing allows the business to become the leading supplier of retailer branded chilled quiches, flans and savoury tarts to Asda, M&S and Sainsbury’s.

 A highly experienced pastry team turns out high-quality shortcrust, French puff , all-butter and specialist varieties. Every day, 250,000 quiches are baked. The quiche experts include a chef who has worked in a Michelin star restaurant. It allows them to design products meeting the tastes of those moving away from pastry, for instance, by designing “Taste the Difference” cupcake and crustless quiches sold by Sainsbury’s. “Having done that with quiche, we are moving to other products,” said Mr Hodson. “It is a growth market.”  

Said Mr Peters: “In 2012, the business supplied enough quiches to Sainsbury’s for the store to sell one to a customer every two seconds – the same weight as 19 jumbo jets.”

Queen’s Drive and Riverside are major growth engines for the company. “This led to a far more stable business,” said Mr Peters.

The site had previously had a “speckled industrial history”. It was “an unmanageable site,” he added.

Today, the Pork Farms factory employs 365 at Queen’s Drive while Riverside Bakery has 620. Mr Peters said: “The transition was difficult but in the last 12 months staff in both sites have earned profit-related pay.” Across four sites, the group employs 1,800, which is 1,000 fewer than in 2007. Since the acquisition, Pork Farms has been transformed from a £1 million a year loss to six per cent annual compound growth for the past four years. Sales have risen from £137 million in 2007 to £152 million in the last financial year.

“We shrank the business to grow it,” added Mr Peters. He said he plans to continue expansion in Nottingham by creating more jobs to deal with growth in production. “Nottingham is a food manufacturing city,” said Mr Peters.

This is an extract from our Visitor Economy Supplement, to view the full document, Click Here

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