Ribs to US, trotters to the Far East help lift Cranswick exports

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SURGING sales of bacon and sausages plus a growing export business lifted pork processor Cranswick’s underlying sales seven per cent in the final three months of December.

The Hull-based group said including the acquisition of cooked meat firm Kingston, total sales were up eight per cent during its peak trading period.

Both sausages and bacon saw double digit sales growth, and Cranswick’s exports of ribs to the United States and offal and trotters to the Far East are gathering pace.

The company has invested about £120m over the past five years in increasing capacity, including at its gourmet bacon plant in Sherburn-in-Elmet, near Leeds. Sales there were at a record high.

Export sales were also “buoyant”, said the group, after winning licences to export ‘‘fifth quarter’ cuts to the Far East. It added Australian export accreditation is also “well advanced”.

It is shipping about 25 containers a week to the Far East, plus one a week to the US.

Exports now make up about five per cent of group sales.

“It’s aided and abetted by the amount we’ve invested in facilities – that continues unabated,” said chief executive Adam Couch. “It was a record year for capex (capital spending), helping us drive volume growth.”

This week it announced the purchase of a former fish auction house in Hull to supply a £30m fresh pork contract with Asda.

It is also investing £12m in a new 5,000 square metre pastry site in Malton, a tie-up with The Yorkshire Baker. It has a contract to supply pork pastry products to Marks & Spencer from the site. It will also launch a range of gourmet pies later this year.

Cranswick hopes to do £4m-£5m of pastry sales this financial year.

Its purchase of Kingston in June also gives Cranswick exposure to high street food-to-go chains Greggs and Pret a Manger – Kingston’s two biggest customers. “It’s a huge market,” said Mr Couch.

Finance director Mark Bottomley added: “The pastry products we are producing in the new facility will lend themselves very much to that market.”

Cranswick said while surging input prices have continued – with pig prices reaching a record high in December – efficiency and “constructive pricing discussions” with customers have helped partially mitigate the full impact on margins.

The group said it will test its own products’ DNA, after Tesco said it will conduct DNA testing on all meat products.

It follows a scandal where horse meat was found in some frozen burgers sold by the supermarket chain.

“We want to give our customers every confidence,” said Mr Couch. “We will do our own testing.”

Cranswick makes a range of gourmet burgers for Sainsbury’s, but said it uses fully traceable prime cuts of beef.