A spokeswoman for frozen foods giant Findus told FoodManufacture.co.uk it first learnt in mid-February that Longbenton had ceased production at its Benton Lane factory in Newcastle. The company subsequently entered administration in early March.
“Longbenton Foods has been a contract manufacturing supplier of our Findus Crispy Pancakes,” she said.
“It was a supplier but was not part of Findus Group, nor held any rights to the Findus name or brand. Longbenton Foods supplied other customers besides the Findus Group.
She added that the fact production of Crispy Pancakes had stopped at Benton Lane meant that “it has been necessary for Findus Group to establish alternative sourcing for these products to ensure consistent and reliable supply to customers.
“Findus Group is continuing to work to establish a long-term alternative sourcing solution to ensure a diversified and reliable supply chain and continuity of product supply for our customers and consumers."
Asked late last week precisely what contingency plan Findus had in place on the production side, operations director Steve Lidgett said: "We're taking nothing out of Longbenton [Foods], it's an outsourced product."
Serious lack of liquidity
Meanwhile, the Benton Lane administrator Grant Thornton said discussions continued “with various parties” regarding the potential sale of the site amidst a difficult financial climate.
Administrator Joe McLean said: “Significant efforts continue to be expended by the administrators in attempting to find a buyer for the Longbenton facility.
“To date, I have turned down several offers for the plant and machinery only on the basis that this would remove the prospects of securing a sale of the entire facility.
“That said, whilst I am in discussions with various parties with various types of interest, many of the suggestions I have received involve the purchase of the factory for non-food purposes.”
Describing the sale process as far from straightforward, McLean said ithad been “played out against the background of a dire economic landscape in the northeast [of England], with a serious lack of liquidity evident”.