Browns finance director Alan Hill told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We are delighted to have acquired Hall’s ‒ an iconic brand and its van sales operation, safeguarding 50 jobs in the process.”
Hill pledged to invest in the brand to widen Hall’s range and, he hoped, create more jobs. “We intend to invest heavily in the Hall’s brand, and we will preserve and increase its reputation by offering food that is both good quality and good value,” he said. “This will also lead to job creation and security going forward.”
The level of investment and subsequent job creation would depend on how well Hall’s “takes in the marketplace”, added Hill.
Browns has not acquired Hall’s production facilities. Manufacturing of Hall’s meat products is to be transferred to Browns’ existing production sites at Prestwick and Fenton Barns, near North Berwick.
The van sales operation will continue to operate throughout Scotland.
Hill acknowledged the acquisition came at a difficult time for the UK meat industry: “It’s a very hard market at present. Raw material prices are rising and customers and retailers continue to want the best prices,” he said.
When asked why Browns was likely to succeed with the Hall’s brand in a challenging market, where Vion had not, Hill declined to comment. But he pointed out that Browns benefitted from the strength of being a family-owned business.
Browns Food Group operates seven manufacturing sites in Scotland and England, supplying retail, foodservice and wholesale markets.
It produces and supplies a range of cooked meats, pre-sliced and whole joints, ready meals, salmon, poultry products, convenience foods and delicatessen items.
Meanwhile, the Scottish government welcomed the acquisition. John Swinney, cabinet secretary for finance, said: “We have always known that there was significant value in the Hall’s brand and I am glad that it will continue with another great Scottish company. Browns are a fantastic business and I welcome their investment and new drive to make the most of the Hall’s brand.”
A Vion spokesman said: “Following its acquisition of the Hall’s brand, we would like to wish Browns Food Group every success with their plans for the business.”
The acquisition combines two of Scotland’s oldest family owned food businesses. The Hall’s brand was created by David A Hall in 1932, while Browns was established in 1885.
Last month, Vion agreed a management buyout of its UK pork operations, safeguarding about 4,000 jobs. The new venture, backed by private equity firm Endless, is led by Seamus Carr, md of Vion’s Pork Business Unit.
Last autumn, City analysts said that Vion’s decision to sell its UK food businesses – casting doubt over the future of 13,000 jobs – was “almost an inevitability”.