Leeds-based Troy Foods, which also makes branded and own-label prepared salads, needs to find a new location for its vegetable business, as its current 2,700m2 site in Stourton, south of the city centre, is nearing capacity.
“Moving out of this site is our next big project, as we’ve been here for 20 years and we’re close to full,” said commercial director James Kempley. “We anticipate it will cost between £8M to £10M to build a new factory, which is a big investment – but it will be worth it.”
Kempley said there was a “huge opportunity” in prepared vegetables for the retail market. He cited the example of Marks & Spencer as one retailer that had significantly expanded its prepared vegetable offer in recent years.
‘Huge opportunity’ in prepared vegetables
“At the moment, we only do one prepared veg product line for Lidl. Any new site will have an extensive high-care element, enabling us to make ready-to-eat prepared items in trays.”
Kempley said the new operation would have to be close to Troy’s existing salads factory and distribution depot, both of which are also based in south Leeds.
“Leeds is very short for space, but we are determined to stay in the area,” said Kempley. “Our workforce is here, and so are our other two sites – and we want them to be as close as possible.”
Availability of labour supply was a growing concern
Troy employs more than 600 people across its three sites, and Kempley said availability of labour supply was a growing concern in the run-up to Brexit. “A few years ago, around 80% of our workforce would be eastern European. Today, that’s closer to 50%,” he explained.
Kempley also remarked that the quality of the labour force was not what it used to be. To address this, he believed “the only way forward” for food manufacturers was to invest in technology.
“The National Living Wage will be £9 by 2020 – that’s unsustainable for our business,” he said. “Retailers just will not accept the increases we are trying to push through.”
Meanwhile, don’t miss our exclusive video interview with Kempley, in which he explained how he drew on his own experience to incentivise the career development of his team.