Seabrook Crisps: Behind the scenes of the company's £12m factory extension in Bradford

When father and son duo Charles and Colin Brook opened the UK’s first crinkle-cut crisps factory in a one-up-one-down terrace house in Bradford in 1950, they would have had no idea the scale of the operation to come.

Fast forward 74 years and today Seabrook Crisps, now owned by Japanese snack giant Calbee, is in the middle of a £12m factory extension at its 10-acre site on Duncombe Street in Bradford.

The 25,000 sq ft building, which is due to open in September, will enable the company to produce an extra 100 tonnes of crisps a week on top of the 240 tonnes it already makes.

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The existing factory, which produces 2,000 bags of crisps a minute, is at capacity and is currently in operation for 24 hours a day, six days a week to meet demand.

Daniel Woodwards, managing director of Seabrook Crisps owner Calbee UK at the company's factory extension in Bradford.Daniel Woodwards, managing director of Seabrook Crisps owner Calbee UK at the company's factory extension in Bradford.
Daniel Woodwards, managing director of Seabrook Crisps owner Calbee UK at the company's factory extension in Bradford.

Seabrook produces its own crinkle cut crisps but 30 per cent of its capacity is given over to producing own label straight cut crisps for Asda and Aldi.

The factory extension, which has been built on a patch of grass previously referred to by employees as the cricket pitch, will include new production lines and create about 20 new jobs.

"Over the last decade we’ve moved walls and put in additional equipment but eventually you run out of internal space and therefore need a new building,” managing director Daniel Woodwards told The Yorkshire Post during a tour of the site.

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The company also has a smaller site in Deeside, Wales, which is also undergoing expansion, where it produces a range of maize and plant-based snacks for the growing healthier snacks market.

The combined turnover of the two sites is currently £70m and is expected to reach £80m by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, plans are in the pipeline for a third phase of investment in Bradford, which would see an additional £3.5m invested in new machinery to increase capacity to 400 tonnes of crisps per week and create up to 15 new jobs.

"One of the issues we’ve had over the past five years is that we haven’t been able to keep pace with demand,” Mr Woodwards said.

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“Every single bit of expansion we’ve done has been almost at full capacity before we’ve even switched on the machines so we always feel against it.”

As a challenger crisp producer, Seabrook has found itself in an unique position in the market. While giants like Walkers are losing volume as consumers tighten their purse strings, Seabrook, which positions itself at a lower price point, is seeing phenomenal growth.

The only thing likely to slow this growth is out of Mr Woodwards’ hands. The new extension will only operate at 60 per cent capacity at first due to a constraint on the availability of potatoes because of erratic weather patterns in the UK.

Seabrook Crisps uses 1,000 tonnes of potatoes per week, which it buys from Yorkshire farmers.

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"I’ve bought my potatoes for the next year but I don’t have enough to fill the total factory,” Mr Woodwards said.

"Now until the end of August is a critical time for potato growing. At the moment I’m watching the weather every day. If there’s an excess crop I’ll be able to buy that and sell it to our private label partners. If that doesn’t happen then we’ll just have to leave the excess capacity.

"We’ve already forward bought for the following year so we’ve got security of supply from July 2025 aligned to our increased capacity in the extension.”

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