Describing a recent visit to the Eye facility, Shore Capital director and head of research Clive Black and analyst Darren Shirley stated in an analyst note: "Quite where Cranswick takes its primary poultry facilities in the UK remains to be seen. However, it is our central expectation that the group will add to its present Eye facility through the next decade; the addition of one or two units of similar scale is far from fanciful (so 4.0m - 4.5m birds per week)."
Accounting for the increase in material costs, a new Eye-style facility could cost £100m - £120m, but Cranswick was 'one of the few players in the UK that is able to countenance such organic expansion', added Black and Shirley.
Since the Eye site was first commissioned in November 2019, Black and Shirley estimated £90m had been expended on it. It is currently processing 1.4 million birds weekly and serves Morrisons as its anchor customer. Cranswick, which won the overall Company of The Year award in the 2021 Food Manufacture Excellence Awards is also building capacity in further poultry processing, with the commissioning of its new breaded chicken plant in Hull expected shortly.
Highest animal welfare standards
The Eye site adhered to the highest animal welfare standards and Black and Shirley said they had been impressed by the care taken to keep birds calm and comfortable before quiet stunning.
The production process was an 'immense engineering exercise', with chicken carcasses automatically stripped and graded by machine and fourth and fifth quarter parts dealt with in a similarly automated manner, according to Black and Shirley. Thighs were automatically deboned, breasts removed and wings clipped and sent off to a separate packing line, with all parts inspected, weighed, packaged and labelled.
In its annual results for the 52 weeks ended 27 March 2021, Cranswick reported a 13.9% increase in sales to £1.89bn and a 26.1% rise to adjusted group operating profit to £132.5m. The company reported 9.3% growth in sales in the 13 weeks to 26 June 2021 compared to the same period last year. Volume grew 7.7%, boosted by the Eye facility.