Robert Whittle, UK general manager at pastry specialist Pidy, is encouraging customers to stock up in preparation for potential border delays and tariff hikes when the UK leaves the EU on 29 March.
Speaking to Food Manufacture at Pidy’s Technipat site in Rethel, France, last month, Whittle said Pidy had opened a facility for UK customers to pay in euros, allowing them to get around the “inevitable” drop in the value of sterling when the UK leaves.
“We’re encouraging customers to buy between January and March next year, because who knows what is going to happen on 29 March,” he said. “Lorries could sit on the borders for days, or even possibly weeks.
‘Opening the door to customers’
“Sterling will drop, so we’re opening the door to customers to safeguard them against any further cost increases, which are inevitable – unless, of course, we happen to reach a deal that will work for everybody.”
Pidy, which produces the likes of pastry shells, tartlets, jocondes and sponge sheets for manufacturers, retailers and foodservice, was itself planning to stockpile products in the run-up to Brexit, Whittle explained. He acknowledged, however, that available warehouse space in the UK was becoming “increasingly difficult to source”.
“Creating a buffer of stock is something we’re going to have to do, and I think a lot of the food industry will have to do the same,” Whittle said. “Thankfully, our pastries and sponge sheets have a long shelf-life – but if you’re in the fresh and chilled sector, you’re going to struggle even more.”
Set up a UK factory
Whittle also revealed that Pidy’s parent company, Biscuits Bouvard, was looking to set up a UK factory within five years. Headquartered in Ypres, Belgium, Pidy currently operates two sites in France, including Technipat, and has a factory in the US state of New York. Its UK business is worth £10m annually.
“It could be through acquisition or a greenfield site, but we want to be closer to the UK market,” Whittle said. “That stretch of water between the UK and the European mainland is a very expensive stretch to service.
“Bouvard wants to develop its own-label presence in the UK – and to do that properly, you need to source locally, and deliver locally. It’s all about remaining cost-competitive.”