Atkinson talked with Food Manufacture about the latest developments at the business, as well as the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit.
“A couple of factors involved in that, the new regulations and the paperwork involved in it have delayed that process and so the movement of goods is somewhat slower than it would have been before,” said Atkinson.
“From a frozen or ambient food perspective that is somewhat more manageable. From a fresh product perspective, which would include eggs, the timescales involved with that don’t sit.”
Atkinson also noted how the Brexit deal had also blocked the export of ungraded egg, effectively cutting off a route to market for some egg producers in the UK. As a result, within the industry there is an over-supply of eggs as a result of Brexit.
He went on to discuss the ‘labour crisis’ and how it had played into Noble’s recruitment process.
“On the farm, innovation and technology has really come to the fore,” Atkinson explained. “It’s well known that recruitment into agriculture is and has been a struggle.
“The technologies involved now don’t replace people per se, but it does reduce the number of people required, because there are elements of the technology and automation mean some of the focus on manpower is taken out.”
Getting out of Gü
This year saw Noble agree to sell its premium chilled desserts brand Gü to Exponent for an undisclosed sum. Commenting on Noble’s future expansion plans, Atkinson said the business was always open to looking for ways to expand the business, but right now its focus was on eggs.
“That said, what we’ve seen – certainly through the pandemic – is increased consumer interest in egg,” he continued. “Egg is a relatively cheap source of very healthy protein, we’ve seen consumer usage and occasions increase, so our focus is on the core of the business but exploration into further innovation of egg.
“How do we make egg more convenient to the consumer? How do we push egg into the on-the-go arena? From our perspective, we’re very excited to explore the further use of egg.”