Major meat supplier Smithfield Foods confident of growth despite taking Brexit hit
PUBLISHED: 08:28 22 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:50 23 August 2017
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A major East Anglian meat processor and seller is bullish about its future growth despite suffering a $15m set-back in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.
Smithfield Foods, a subsidiary of the US-owned Smithfield Foods Inc group, imports pork and poultry from its farms and factories in Poland and Romania – meaning sterling’s fall has driven up its costs and squeezed margins.
But Ian Lindsay, managing director of the EDP/EADT Top 100 company, said the division was still aiming to grow turnover by investing through Brexit uncertainty – continuing with plans for new slaughterhouses and plants in eastern Europe.
He said: “We have been massively affected by the currency process to the tune of $15m, maybe $20m, which has been quite painful for us. There is not an awful lot we can do about it or do to recover it so we have been growing and therefore generating more profit.”
While the UK arm reported a £13m rise in turnover to £83.7m for the year to January 2017, Mr Lindsay said he would be disappointed if the business did not grow that to the “mid 90s” for the next 12 months.
He said: “I had hoped we would break the £100m mark. Growth has been slower than we anticipated. We launched a couple of lines with Asda which didn’t quite catch fire as quickly as we expected.”
While the Norwich-based division employs 43 staff and accounts for a relatively small part of the overall operation Mr Lindsay said it was able to offer insight to the rest of the company.
“Because we have this base here and the local knowledge we are able to make sure products are right for the market,” he said. “The UK is a very complex market and we have an advantage over the competition by having a foothold here.”
Smithfield works with major supermarkets as well as restaurants such as Wagamama.
Mr Lindsay said he did not envisage large trade tariffs being placed on goods from between the UK and EU as a
result of Brexit. “I don’t see a situation where there is such a massive growth in British farming after Brexit that it can fulfil the demand for meat in the UK,” he said. Mr Lindsay added he did not think the UK market would grow in volume but what consumers were buying might change as convenience products become more popular.