CRANSWICK has won a £30m deal to become Asda’s main fresh pork supplier, buying a site in Hull to meet the surge in demand.
The Hull-based pork, sausage and bacon producer confirmed the purchase of a former fish auction house from receivers. It expects to be in full production at the site by the end of March.
Cranswick said the deal will create more than 100 jobs, and it is also investing a “multi-million pound” sum in slicing, dicing and vacuum-packing technology at the site.
Cranswick won the contract after previous supplier, Dutch-owned meat group Vion, announced the closure of its Hall’s of Broxburn site in Scotland.
“It’s good for the Hull economy to get some good news in,” said Chris Aldersley, managing director of fresh pork at Cranswick.
“It’s very good for East Yorkshire and Yorkshire as a whole in terms of its pig supply.
“This is a significant contract win for Cranswick Country Foods and necessitated an expansion to accommodate the new business.
“The Fishgate building was an ideal facility for us to convert to retail packing due to having originally being built to a very high standard food processing facility.”
Cranswick sources 70 per cent of its pigs from the farming community in a 50-mile radius of its Hull base.
The pigs will be slaughtered at its Preston, East Yorkshire abattoir, before being packaged at the former Fishgate Hull Fish Auction at William Wright Dock.
The state-of-the-art site was built in 2000 but closed in 2011 after a rapid decline in Icelandic fish exports. Its closure ended a 150-year tradition of daily fish auctions being held in the city.
“It’s sad the site went into receivership but it’s a fantastic opportunity (for us),” said Mr Aldersley. “It was built to a fantastic standard and ticks all the boxes.”
The 157,000 sq ft site includes refrigeration and adds to Cranswick’s packaging facilities in Preston and Norfolk.
It will process about 200 tonnes of fresh pork a week. The Asda contract, which started last month, sees Cranswick supplying about 300-350 tonnes of pork a week to the Leeds-based supermarket chain.
The site will be renamed Cranswick Riverside and about 10 key staff from the Preston site will move across to manage the new plant.
Cranswick supplies about 25 per cent of the UK’s premium pork, including most of the major supermarkets.
Mr Aldersley said the pork market remains tough as high commodity price inflation squeezes producers.
Tough new rules on pig farming in the European Union, which ban sow stalls, are also shrinking pig herds.
“It’s a difficult market,” he said. “We’ve seen rapid increases in food costs and which have been passed down, and rapid increases in our pig cost.”
Vion announced in October it was closing its Broxburn pig processing site with the loss of 1,700 jobs, blaming “unsustainable losses” and the tough economy. Vion then embarked on a sale of its UK operations, and earlier this month management completed a buyout of its pork business. The division employs about 4,000 staff and includes sites in Hull and Malton.
Cranswick’s shares have surged since late November, climbing more than 27 per cent. They dipped 2p to close at 938p yesterday.
An Asda spokeswoman confirmed the deal. “I can confirm that Cranswick now supply the vast majority of our pork. It moved out of Vion in Scotland last year.”
Cranswick employs about 5,000 staff, including around 2,500 in Hull.
The company, headed by chairman Martin Davey and chief executive Adam Couch, is due to update on trading today.
Building an empire
CRANSWICK was founded in the 1970s by Yorkshire farmers to produce pig feed. It has spent about £100m on expansion over the past five years.
Last year it announced plans to spend £10m on a new factory in Malton, North Yorkshire, to target the savoury pastry and pie market. The site will be a tie-up with pasty and pie-maker The Yorkshire Baker.
Cranswick also recently completed a £25m investment in its abattoir in Preston, East Yorkshire, and is also extending its Sutton Fields cooked meat factory in Hull.
It also bought cooked meat firm Kingston Foods in June for £10.2m.