Speaking exclusively to Food Manufacture, Jais Valeur, chief executive at Europe’s largest pork processor, said he was “not unhappy” about the number of Tulip operations, as it suited an ever-more fragmented customer base.
But he warned that to keep Tulip’s 7,000-strong workforce in the UK, access to qualified labour post-Brexit was essential.
“You won’t get me to say it’s an advantage to have 16 sites, but I’m more happy about it than I was a couple of years ago. We have a very well-invested structure in the UK, and spend about £35M every year on capital [investment],” Valeur said.
“But we need access to qualified labour, be they British or from anywhere else – I don’t really care. I just want to make sure we keep 7,000 jobs in the UK – I just think it’s pretty damn important for the country.”
‘Make sure we keep 7,000 jobs in the UK’
Formerly executive vice president of Arla, Valeur joined Danish Crown in November 2015, and has set about making the group more customer-focused.
Turnaround specialist Steve Francis was appointed chief executive of Tulip in September 2016. He immediately restructured the business into four divisions – Tulip Fresh, Tulip Added Value, Tulip Agriculture and the well-established Dalehead Foods.
Francis told Food Manufacture that the move was more of a “rebuild”, and it was all about reconnecting with customers and listening to their needs.
“Jais spoke to customers before I came, and when I arrived I spent my time talking to them. We both got a very consistent message, it was to be more responsive and more innovative,” he said.
“It’s about being able to develop long-term strategic partnerships with them, where we operate jointly in our joint best interest. That was a mode of operation we had fallen out of.”
Suffered a number of contract losses
Faced with strong competition in the retail market and increasing raw material prices, Tulip has suffered a number of contract losses in recent years. It ended the last financial year by making a loss, according to Danish Crown.
Valeur acknowledged that both Danish Crown and Tulip had been a little too “rear wheel drive”, in focusing too much on the farmer and the abattoir.
“We have now what we call a four wheel drive strategy, which means more focus on customers, consumers and the value-added side of things,” he explained.
“Our four core markets remain the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Poland. So, we have a strong commitment to securing the future of the business in this country, and returning Tulip to the number one position.”