After today the news room will be decked out in holly, locked up and abandoned, but we will shake off our festive sloth (and waistlines) to return with further breaking stories and insight on food manufacturing from January 4.
In the meantime, sit back with a suitably festive tipple, and reflect on what’s been a busy year for the UK food manufacturing industry, with this selection of stories that caught our eye from 2010.
The FoodManufacture.co.uk team
Glass and a half empty?
Cadbury hit the headlines in February, when 400 Somerdale workers cried ‘betrayal’ after Kraft gave its word to halt a production transfer to Poland before its hostile takeover of Cadbury in January, then reneged upon the promise once a deal was done. As a result, the airwaves turned blue with complaints about the ease with which successful UK businesses are subject to hostile acquisitions, with calls for changes to the City code on Takeovers. Watch this space in 2011.
Where is Premier going?
‘Absolutely nowhere’, according to one analyst we spoke to – with the food manufacturing behemoth having (according to some commentators) bitten off more than it could chew over the last couple of years in terms of acquisitions, and upset Tesco over pricing to boot. Premier recently announced talks with Nestle over the sale of its Quorn business, and although no deal has yet been done, disposals are likely in 2011.
Northern had been swept of its feet by equally smitten Greencore, and the couple are still hot-footing it to the altar to conceive Essenta Foods. But on Wednesday mysterious stranger Ranjit Boparan – who has steadily increased his share interest in Northern over recent weeks – announced he was considering a £300m cash bid for Northern. The board claims it still favours old beau Greencore, but could Boparan sweep Northern’s shareholders off their feet if he does lodge a bid in 2011?
Quintessentially English firm Twinings announced in November 2009 that it was switching the bulk of its UK tea processing operations to Poland, closing down its North Shields site and also slashing staff numbers in Andover. It was a bitter blow for UK workers, who felt doubly aggrieved after we broke the news that Twinings had snaffled a €12m EU regional development grant for its Polish plant.
If food inspires desire, cloned food evokes tempestuous (and not always positive) passion. And the tabloids had a field day when the Food Standards Agency (FSA) decided last month, upon a purely hypothetical basis, that it would adjudge cloned meat and milk safe from cattle safe, if an application were made to it under the EU Novel Foods Regulation.
But despite alarmist headlines, don’t expect a rash of cloned food to hit supermarket shelves just yet: the EU Commission favours banning production of cloned foods in the union due to ethical concerns, despite also ruling out any safety risk. And, dare we say, it would be a brave food manufacturer who believed UK consumers en masse were ready for cloned foodsin 2011.
Arla super dairy
Whether Arla’s new super dairy will prove a game changer or not when it comes online in 2012, the revelation that it will sit on a 70-acre site in Aston Clinton, Aylesbury and create 500 new jobs came as big news. Feverish speculation broke out when Arla announced the dairy would be built in late 2009, and the company only put industry and media sources out of our misery in September.
Spate of strikes
Some discontent was inevitable in 2010 given the extent of the recent recession, with less money washing round in the economy (despite quantitative easing) and food manufacturers pressing suppliers on costs, reducing wage bills and staff numbers, pruning back development spending and generally look at business efficiency.
Inevitably, this has upset workers and unions, and major action this year involved a still ongoing spate of 24-hour strikes at Heinz Kitt Green, in addition to action at Coca-Cola Enterprises' Edmonton canning facility and Bakkavor’s pizza plant in Harrow, while staff at Vion and Maple Leaf Bakery came close to walking out.