Smithfield Foods targets UK market for fresh meat imports

PUBLISHED: 14:12 27 June 2014

Ian Lindsay MD of Norwich based Smithfield foods. Photo: Bill Smith

Ian Lindsay MD of Norwich based Smithfield foods. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Norwich-based Smithfield Foods is eyeing new opportunities importing pork and poultry into the UK following a re-organisation of the firm.

Ian Lindsay MD of Norwich based Smithfield foods. Photo: Bill SmithIan Lindsay MD of Norwich based Smithfield foods. Photo: Bill Smith

It has been a year of change for the EDP Top100 firm, whose US parent group was bought by China’s largest pork producer Shuanghui International Holdings in a £2.7bn ($4.6bn) deal last year.

Managing director Ian Lindsay, who has rejoined the company after previously working as commercial director, said the merger had no direct impact on the UK operation.

But under his stewardship the firm had undergone a series of changes, including an “extrication” from processed meats producer Campofrio. It has also moved to new refurbished offices over two storeys at Norfolk Tower in Surrey Street, which featured more meeting rooms and specialist kitchen facilities.

He said the firm was now pursuing a fresh meats strategy based around importing pigs and chickens into the UK after identifying a “carcass deficit” in both products which the firm was looking to fill from its suppliers in Poland and Romania.

“Our strategic intent is to grow the business to in excess of 10 million pigs, and we are looking to go from 30 million to 50 million chickens,” he said. “My job and our ambition is to get our fair share of the market. If you can get a small market share, you would increase the size of this business eightfold - a tenfold increase in poultry is a fourfold increase in the business.

He said UK consumers’ preference for loin and bacon products meant that there was not enough to go around if the country relied on solely UK produced pork.

“I am not trying anyone to stop buying British,” he added. “What I am saying is that this is already a market which has a carcass imbalance. What I would like to do is service that from Poland and Romania.

“My job is to supply pigs to the UK to exactly the same standards as the UK requires. Without them the UK hasn’t got enough pigs.

“We are not competing with the UK supply chain, we are competing with other European operations such as Vion.

“It’s very much about what the consumer wants. We have a skilled technical development team here and we talk to customers to produce the product they want.

“It’s a high growth business. There is a huge market in the UK and we want to be part of that and we are building a business to service that - that’s a different business model.”

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