By shaun Lowthorpe Business editor
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The owners of Lowestoft’s Birds Eye factory are pressing ahead with a scheme to install a £3m combined heat and power plant which will cut its CO2 emissions by 20pc.
Private equity firm Permira, which owns the Whapload Road factory has approved the investment on the site, and a scheme is now being drawn up for submission to Waveney District Council’s planning committe for approval.
Around 700 staff work at Birds Eye site, producing the brand’s range of vegetable, beef, poultry, and potato products, making it the town’s biggest employer.
If planners approve the scheme, the firm is hoping the proposed 12m by 20m facility could be up and running by October.
Craig Hamiltion, general manager at the Lowestoft site, said the investment would bring a range of environmental benefits, while also helping the business become more competitive and drive down costs.
“We are looking at investing about £3m in to the Lowestoft Birds Eye factory on combined heat and power (CHP),” he said. “That’s the technology we are going to invest in. It’s quite well used, particularly for new-build factories . It’s state of the art technology that reduces your running costs and CO2 emissions.
“For us this investment would reduce our CO2 emissions by 20pc on the site which is a really significant amount and takes us a big step forward for our sutainability programme and for the business to commit this kind of step change in one fell swoop is great for us.
“We have got spare land between two production buildings. It takes natural gas rather than buying electricity from the grid and converts that into power, heat and hot water. It’s a far more effective way way of using power.”
The announcement comes less than a year after the business revealed it had invested £5.7m in factory facilities, including the installation of a new production line for its poultry products, equipping workers with the latest technology, and creating 20 new jobs.
Mr Hamilton added: “We have had the money authorised, and we have got a preferred supplier who is a world expert in this type of technology. We are now finalising the design and we will then submit a planning application to Waveney District Council.
“Once we get towards the spring, we will hopefully start doing the building for the CHP plant and after that look to bring it on stream probably towards October.
“We have been owned by a private equity company for the last six years, and under that time the factory has gone from strength to strength. We have seen volumnes grow and what we produce in our Lowestoft factory is 20pc higher than it was in 2006. We have certainly attracted more volume and more investment and over the years we have been recruiting more people.
“There’s been a lot in the press recently about food being wasted, but that’s not something you get with frozen food because it’s got a long shelf life. We have seen sales grow and increased demand.”