Poultry firm begins £5m expansion after pandemic accelerates demand
- Credit: TNP
A Norfolk poultry firm is investing £5m to double its processing capacity after the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the rising demand for free-range chickens and turkeys.
Traditional Norfolk Poultry has started work on a major extension to its factory at Shropham, near Attleborough.
The first phase, due to be completed in autumn, will increase the chilling, packing and processing capacity to allow the firm to produce up to 500,000 turkeys in time for Christmas.
The second stage will then focus on chickens, creating more space within the packing and distribution areas to streamline production lines and take capacity up to 300,000 chickens per week - double the firm's current output.
Managing director Mark Gorton said the investment, part-funded by a grant from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), was driven by demand which was already rising before the coronavirus crisis - but which ramped up further as pub and restaurant closures prompted people to cook more meals at home.
"The expansion is not a knee-jerk reaction to coronavirus - it is part of our long-term business plan and it has been in the pipeline for the last couple of years," he said.
"Even pre-Covid we have been seeing demand increasing, but the virus has accelerated that demand.
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"Right through the pandemic, it has been through the roof and we have been working flat out to get close to meeting it. There have been times when the demand has been double what we have got available.
"I guess it will fall back again when things get back to normal, but we are confident some of that demand will stick, and we will see a net increase."
With the expanded factory expected to be capable of dealing with double the number of birds currently being processed for supermarkets, Mr Gorton said the firm is also investing heavily in its supply line, creating more growing space on its network of farms across East Anglia.
He added: "It has been a challenging year, keeping the business running at full capacity throughout the Covid crisis, but we have managed to keep our workforce safe and well throughout whilst keeping our customers supplied during a period of hugely increased demand. Hopefully the end is in sight."