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Danish Crown to construct £100mn UK plant as bacon demand rebounds

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One of Europe’s leading meat companies is to build a £100mn production facility in the UK as the country’s appetite for bacon surges.Danish Crown will build the plant in Rochdale, north of Manchester, creating more than 300 jobs in the second half of next year, the company said. It comes in spite of the UK economy shrinking and “crazy” post-Brexit red tape, according to its chief executive. The new facility will allow it to sell its bacon and gammon processed in the UK made from imported Danish pork.

One of Europe’s leading meat companies is to build a £100mn production facility in the UK as the country’s appetite for bacon surges.

Danish Crown will build the plant in Rochdale, north of Manchester, creating more than 300 jobs in the second half of next year, the company said. It comes in spite of the UK economy shrinking and “crazy” post-Brexit red tape, according to its chief executive.

Jais Valeur, chief executive, said that rising inflation meant that more consumers were turning to cheaper staple foods such as bacon and sausages. “People are dialling back into what they feel most comfortable and safe with,” he said.

The UK’s bacon imports have returned to pre-pandemic levels this year as office and school canteens, as well as restaurants, reopened. Overseas purchases in the first nine months of the year jumped by more than a quarter from the same time last year to 151,000 tonnes, according to Freya Shuttleworth, analyst at AHDB, which provides advice to UK farmers.

The UK already has the highest consumption of bacon per capita in Europe, eating more than 3kg of the pork product a year, far higher than other consumers in other European markets, according to consumer data group Kantar.

The new 30,500 square metre bacon and gammon processing plant will be Danish Crown’s first UK production facility in three years, following the restructuring of its UK business.

The market has remained one of Danish Crown’s important export destinations, with its bacon business in the UK worth an annual £600mn. “What we want to do now is to take more control of that value chain,” said Valeur. “So from Danish pigs, we want to have control of that right through to the customers and consumers in the UK.”

The company, which is owned by a farming co-operative, has been exporting bacon to the UK since 1887, and its sales have remained steady despite Brexit, the chief executive added, although it has meant that it has to produce an additional 33,000 sets of documents a year to trade. He described the process as “crazy”, before adding that as a large company it was manageable. “We can do it. But, of course, small and medium-sized companies are struggling with this kind of bureaucracy issue,” he said.

The new facility will allow it to sell its bacon and gammon processed in the UK made from imported Danish pork. Valeur did not rule out procuring UK pork, but added that it was unlikely because of its existing strategy.

The UK investment by Danish Crown comes amid uncertainty facing Europe’s meat industry because of higher feed and energy costs triggered by the war in Ukraine, which has hit pig supplies. The meat group announced redundancies at some of its abattoirs earlier this year.

The Rochdale facility is due to begin production in the second half of 2023. The plant will be using the latest processing technology to cure, smoke, slice and pack 900 tonnes of bacon and gammon a week, and the company will be looking for employees to operate highly automated production equipment, Valeur said.

 

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