Chilled demand hits Brooks

Increasing consumer preference for chilled lamb has forced New Zealand meat-marketing company PPCS to reconfigure its UK frozen processing facility.

The move, which could lead to the loss of between 50 and a 100 jobs is part of a business review.

According to chairman Reese Hart, PPCS has entered into a conditional sale of its Brooks of Norwich plant following a strategic review of its international operations.

Once the sale is completed, PPCS will lease back part of the plant in order to meet the required volumes of frozen products packed in-market.

The retained processing area will operate as a standalone toll-processing unit.

"A significant change in market demand since PPCS invested in Brooks of Norwich in 1988 is behind this decision," said Hart.

"The consumer trend in the UK is an increasing preference for chilled rather than frozen lamb. UK retailers have consolidated the packaging of chilled meat with a small number of multi-species operators.

"The decision to reconfigure PPCS Brooks was not taken lightly. However, the proposed changes establish a more robust business model at Brooks of Norwich as a specialised independent facility, processing both for PPCS and other companies."

The company has begun a consultation process with the 200 staff at Brooks of Norwich regarding the proposed changes in order to minimise the number of potential redundancies at the facility.

The sales and marketing function currently undertaken by Brooks of Norwich will be consolidated within PPCS' wholly-owned subsidiary, New Zealand Lamb Company (UK).

PPCS has significant investment in the UK and the company hopes that the proposed changes will ensure its UK operations are better aligned to reflect demand.

"The initiative delivers on PPCS' commitment to ongoing improvements in performance," said Hart.

PPCS is New Zealand's largest meat-marketing company, exporting sheepmeat, beef, venison and associated products to about 60 countries.

The company has international offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.