Heck boss warns of Christmas food shortages

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Heck founder Andrew Keeble urged the Government to take action against nationwide staff shortages
Heck founder Andrew Keeble urged the Government to take action against nationwide staff shortages

Related tags Meat & Seafood Supply chain

The UK will be hit with a raft of food shortages over the Christmas holiday period if the Government doesn’t step up and address the continued staff shortages across the food and drink supply chain, according to Heck founder and managing director Andrew Keeble.

Products such as pigs in blankets – a popular dish over the holidays – may be missing from the dinner table this winter, with Heck warning that production could be cut by a third.

As Keeble explained: “Some of the pig processors are having to cut down on how many pigs they are processing a week so that is going to have a knock on effect on what’s on the shelf this autumn and winter.”

Urgent need to fill roles

The Bedale-based sausage maker is facing staff shortages this September, urgently needing to fill roles across dispatch, distribution and marketing. Continued shortages of heavy goods vehicle drivers has forced Heck to train its own workers to distribute its sausages to customers.

Keeble urged the Government to take action and match the effort that the food and drink industry has put in to try and entice more people to join the industry.

“We have increased wages, provided incentives, provide fantastic training,”​ Keeble added. “However, as this is an industry crisis we are now in a bidding war with other companies. They also need to get in top of issuing of settlement codes, we know there are people waiting to come to work in the UK.

Recruitment and retaining

“The biggest issue in the food and supply industry is recruitment and retaining. British people don’t see food as a destination career, but we’ve had people starting work for us straight from school, who we have trained up and are now heading up marketing and sales. We are a brilliant place to work so please anyone who is interested, pick up the phone and call me!”

Staff shortages have been a major issue up and down the food and drink supply chain, with the industry now facing the worst skills crisis in our lifetime​,​ according to Avara Foods people and communications director Andrew Brodie.

Speaking to Food Manufacture​​, Brodie said: "This is not a temporary labour issue. It is a structural change in the UK labour market that will take years to play out.​​”

Meanwhile, food and drink sector output fell at the fastest pace in eight months​ as staff shortages, driven partly by large numbers of workers self-isolating, restricted production capacity, according to Lloyds Bank UK Recovery Tracker.

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