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Multi-million pound investment at Watton pork producer Cranswick helps export ribs to the US

PUBLISHED: 09:46 21 October 2015 | UPDATED: 13:09 21 October 2015

Cranswick Country Foods in Watton - On the production line. Picture; Matthew Usher.

Cranswick Country Foods in Watton - On the production line. Picture; Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2012

A pork producer has launched a multi-million pound investment at its Norfolk base in a bid to sell baby back ribs to the Americans.

Adam Couch, chief executive of Cranswick Country Foods, Picture submitted.Adam Couch, chief executive of Cranswick Country Foods, Picture submitted.

Cranswick, which has a plant in Watton, is upgrading its production line to meet strict United States Department of Agriculture regulations.

It means the Hull-based firm, which employs more than 1,000 people in Norfolk, can unlock a new export market and will secure jobs in the region.

Cranswick chief executive Adam Couch said the £6m of investment would bring long-awaited modernisation to the plant.

“It has been in need of an upgrade for a good period of time since we acquired the business in 2009,” he said.

Mr Couch said the new processing area equipment would allow the firm to increase volume, and was due to be completed by September next year.

“Every country throughout the world has an imbalance in its cuts of meat,” he said. “Baby back ribs is the main item the American market looks for.”

Cranswick, which was founded in 1972, saw revenues inch up by 0.8pc to £1bn for the year to the end of March, up from £995m the year before, and recorded adjusted pre-tax profits of £57.8m.

The Russian import ban, in the wake of the Ukraine crisis last year, has added to a pig surplus which has kept prices low.

Mr Couch said he did not see this market returning in the short or medium term. “The market has changed which means the flow of pork around the world has changed,” he said.

But while pig prices have dropped to below 130p per kilo, Mr Couch said the firm had not seen a fall in production volume.

The EDP Top100 company has developed strong export ties with China, where it ships more than 1,000 tonnes of pork per week.

Mr Couch said it was unlikely there would be a growth in pig numbers going forward, but did not anticipate a fall.

The Chinese market snaps up cuts of meat including heads, tails and trotters, whereas the British market focuses on bacon.

Exporting baby back ribs to the US will allow Cranswick to tap into the eating out market.

“By the end of next year we will have invested more than £230m over the last eight years,” said Mr Couch.

“It has gone into our infrastructure and we wouldn’t be making that type of investment unless we were confident.”

Is your business planning a major investment? Call Sabah Meddings on 01603 772879 or email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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