The Cheshire Cheese Company acquired by Joseph Heler

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The Cheshire Cheese Company (CCC) has been acquired by family-owned cheese producer Joseph Heler to expand its branded offering. As a multi award-winning brand, the Cheshire Cheese Company will become one of Heler’s flagship consumer facing brands alongside its low calorie, low fat and high protein cheese, Eatlean. CCC, which was established in 2010 to produce cheddar and Cheshire cheese waxed truckles in innovative, unique flavours, has seen 400% growth in revenues since 2019 making it one of the largest online cheese retailers in the UK and a desirable acquisition. Joseph Heler has operations across central Europe, which will re-open markets to CCC that Brexit made unviable. The Cheshire Cheese Company co-founder Simon Spurrell will retain an equitable stake in the business and remains as Managing Director to steer the company forward. All of its head office, production and warehouse staff will be retained while 14 additional full and part time jobs will be created on the back of this acquisition. Commenting on the deal, which was undertaken for an undisclosed sum, George Heler, group Managing Director of Joseph Heler, said: “We’re delighted to welcome the Cheshire Cheese Company to the Heler Group. “It has a fantastic product and has worked hard to grow a loyal following across the UK. Cheshire Cheese Company’s wealth of experience and expertise will provide plentiful synergies which is very exciting. Together, we’re confident we can extend its reach across the UK and Europe.” Simon Spurrell, Managing Director of the Cheshire Cheese Company, said: “This strategic alliance has come at a very important time for the business. Post Brexit legislation meant our plans to operate in mainland Europe were halted – this arrangement will see us able to grow with increased production and fulfilment capacity and a worldwide reach.”

Co-op commits to ‘clearing’ shelves of all coloured milk bottle tops to increase recyclability

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Co-op has committed to removing all coloured milk bottle caps from its shelves, delivering benefits for the recyclability of the lids. Shoppers are soon set to see clear caps on all Co-op’s skimmed, semi-skimmed and whole milk across all its stores in towns, villages and cities across the UK. Clear bottle tops reduce colour contamination in the high-density polyethylene (HDPE) stream, allowing materials to be recycled more easily into food-grade packaging. The move follows successful consumer trials on semi-skimmed milk in more than 400 Co-op stores in August and, with ‘clear’ recyclability gains to be made, green caps will be switched to clear in all of its stores by the end of next month. Co-op will then eradicate red (skimmed milk caps) and blue (whole milk caps) in early 2023. Once all caps have been switched it could remove more than 150 tonnes of coloured plastic from HDPE streams per annum. Switching all green caps first is set to unlock the majority of the recyclability benefits, with semi-skimmed accounting for more than three-fifths of milk sales. Adam Williams, Co-op’s milk buyer, said: “There are changes in store for how shoppers see milk bottle tops, with the new caps able more easily recycled and retained in the food sector unlike their coloured counterparts. There is limited availability of food grade recycled plastic, and that is a challenge. “It is important that packaging is viewed as a valuable resource. We continue to work to explore new ways to make it easier to recycle and re-use these materials, and small changes to everyday issues can collectively add up to make a big difference – this is a ‘clear’ solution that can reduce the dependency on virgin plastic in the supply chain.” Adam Herriott, sector specialist – resource management, WRAP, said: “WRAP fully supports the complete removal of pigments from HDPE milk bottle caps by Co-op, a founding member of The UK Plastics Pact. “This development has helped the HDPE milk bottle increase its reputation as a shining light of the circular economy and will enable the caps to be recycled with the bottle and go back into food grade applications and therefore able to be recycled multiple times into high grade, high value materials and products. “It is, however, still vitally important that citizens follow the Recycle Now and OPRL advice of ensuring that they recycle their bottle with the ‘cap on’ to make sure that they are captured and recycled effectively – we must all continue, as in industry, to go further and ensure we bring in more changes that benefit shoppers and the environment.”

Private equity house invests in Tunisian snacks producer

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Admaius Capital Partners, a pan African private equity house, has, via a subsidiary of the Virunga Africa Fund 1, made a significant investment in Power Brands, the parent company of Céréalis S.A., Tunisia’s leading producer of salted snacks and a significant producer of baked goods.

Admaius will partner with the current owners of Power Brands, the Gahbiche family and Ekuity Capital, a leading Tunisian private equity investor, to build a leading branded FMCG platform through a combination of organic growth and selective acquisitions to expand and build on Céréalis’s portfolio of strong local brands.

The investment is consistent with Admaius’s strategy of investing in African FMCG companies positioned to benefit from growing incomes and increasing demand for products tailored to meet local needs.

Céréalis was founded in 2004 by current CEO Karim Gahbiche, a Tunisian national and Harvard graduate who started his career at Goldman Sach’s asset management business and comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Céréalis has grown rapidly to become Tunisia’s largest salty snacks producer with a range of leading branded products.

Admaius will also use its position to drive improvements in areas where Céréalis has the potential to have significant positive impacts on society such as reducing packaging waste, increasing recycling, carbon footprint reduction and improving nutrition. Admaius is a signatory of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and is committed to aligning its investments with the UN Social Development Goals.

Karim Gahbiche, CEO of Power Brands and Céréalis, said: “I’m excited to be working with Admaius and Ekuity Capital as we enter a new chapter in the development of the business which I founded back in 2004. The experience and network that the Admaius team brings to the table will be invaluable in helping us to grow and develop a major North African FMCG platform.”

Amine Allam, MD of Admaius, said: “We are delighted to announce our second investment in another outstanding African business led by a strong entrepreneur. Céréalis is representative of the home-grown national champions that we typically look to partner with in North Africa and that are expected to outperform and create value for all stakeholders across the cycle. We look forward to working with Power Brands in the coming years to support the development of a new FMCG platform.”

Marlon Chigwende, Managing Partner of Admaius, said: “This investment is an excellent example of Admaius’s differentiated approach to investing in Africa that combines on the ground presence with global private equity expertise. With our strong networks across the continent and our deep expertise in our core sectors, I am convinced that this approach will result in superior outcomes for our investors and our investee companies.”

Mohammad Al-Nemah, CEO of Ekuity Capital, said: “This transaction is consistent with Ekuity Capital’s objective of enabling the development of a strong Tunisian business sector. Since investing in Céréalis 8 years ago, we have worked closely with Karim Gahbiche and his team and are enthused by the opportunity to support the continued growth and evolution of the business.”

Severe drought in southern Europe sparks price spike in long grain rice

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Ingredients experts, Eurostar Commodities are warning that the severe drought in southern Spain and Portugal is having a drastic effect on the price of long grain rice and resulting in forecasted tighter supplies and a price increase of almost one third (29%).

  • Spain – The volume of the next Spanish long grain rice crop will drop significantly by -70% as a consequence of the severe drought
  • Portugal – In Portugal on the ground conditions are different but the production decrease is expected to be between -10-20% down on usual production of long grain rice
  • The availability of water in some of these areas was not sufficient enough to allow the growing of rice at all
  • Prices in the Far East continue to rise with the growing demand for large quantities of long grain rice from Europe. With this severe lack of availability, prices will increase by 29%

Ingredients expert, Jason Bull, director, Eurostar Commodities, said: “Food price inflation is still going strong and increasing due to drought and raw material availability issues.

“If we then add in currency exchange rates, transportation and fuel costs, and finance interest then the market is in a situation where price will rise sharply from early December of this year.

“Retailers, restaurants and the food service industry will either have to absorb these additional costs or pass them on to customers.

“The market is now increasing prices to reflect a substantial decrease in raw product and huge hikes. Food inflation still has a way to go.”

Scottish seaweed snack brand SHORE bags new investment, listings and NPD

New Wave Foods Ltd has secured new six-figure investment from its biggest shareholders to progress the production of its Scottish seaweed, expand its SHORE range of products and create new ranges to boost UK retail listings. Since launching its sustainable seaweed snack range a year ago, the Wick-based food firm’s super-grain chips have become the biggest selling non-potato bagged snack in existing regional supermarket listings (Neilson data) and they’ve recently gained new listings with Morrisons, Holland & Barrett and Booths. Now with a fully compliant HFSS recipe, a new Smoky BBQ chip flavour joins the existing three later this month and its Sweet Sriracha chips also appear in the Craft Gin Club’s November subscription box featuring an Outer Hebridean gin and accompanying Scottish snacks & drinks. This latest equity fundraising round will enable the sustainable food firm to further expand the distribution of its products across UK retail and bring more innovative products to market under its breakthrough brand SHORE The Scottish Seaweed Co., starting with a duo of ambient plant-based Ramen Broths made with the same seaweed they sustainably hand harvest along the Scottish coastline for their chips. SHORE’s fragrant Miso Ramen and Chilli Ramen deliver a high quality ramen experience at home, in a convenient ready to heat format. Plugging the gap between poorer quality concentrates & powdered ramen products currently on the market and the restaurant experience of ramen, the two SKUs will roll out initially at Amazon and independents in 500ml fully recyclable Tetra packs later this month (rsp £3) with more listings to follow later this year. Furthermore, New Wave Foods will use part of the equity funding to drive forward their ambitious sustainable production of Scottish seaweed, including farming at their site near Oban. SHORE joint Managing Director Keith Paterson says: “We are delighted how well our SHORE Chips are performing in the better-for-you snacking market. We see a substantial opportunity to replicate what the brand has achieved in Scotland across the whole UK, with a HFSS compliant snack that actually tastes great and has a proven leading rate of sale. “We are also excited to be launching a delicious new plant-based Ramen range, inspired by our own hand harvested seaweed. It’s a product range that tested fantastically with our consumers and furthers our mission to create an edible seaweed industry of scale, that is 100% sustainable, good for the coastal environment and beneficial for our local rural communities.”

Moy Park reverses plan to close Derbyshire plant

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Chicken products producer Moy Park has walked back threats to close one of its Derbyshire plants. This comes after weeks of negotiations with GMB bosses to re-consider closing the facility near Ashbourne, with the potential loss of hundreds of local jobs. While 175 jobs will be saved, the facility will be downsized and reshaped to be a B2B supplier, reducing the workforce. Mick Coppin, GMB Organiser, said: “GMB has been negotiating and campaigning to save jobs at Moy Park for months. To see management sit up and listen to our members demands is fantastic. “These workers are absolutely essential in producing and supplying our favourite chicken products across the country, in the home and in well love restaurant chains including Nando’s and McDonalds. “Potential job losses on the scale feared would have been catastrophic for the local community, and GMB union members should be proud that they have delivered this win. “This weekend I’ll be raising a toast with my Sunday Dinner to those GMB Union members at Moy Park in Derbyshire who brought the country back from the brink of a devastating chicken shortage.”

Specialist investor sets out to improve food supply efficiency

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Isara, a new specialist investor in the food sector, has launched its debut £300m fund focused on improving the efficiency, quality and sustainability of food supply systems across the UK, Ireland and Western Europe.

Isara intends to invest in food production and distribution businesses, helping to stabilise and transform the existing food ecosystem which is undergoing structural shifts caused by rising inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, labour supply scarcity, and a growing commitment to sustainability.

Led by Michael Rice, Isara’s team has extensive expertise working with businesses and management teams across the food sector, including Eight Fifty Food Group, Orchard House Foods, Chaucer Foods, West Cornwall Pasty Co, Heron Foods and Seabrooks, bringing hands-on experience and a network of specialist advisors to support portfolio companies.

While focusing on majority shareholding investments, the fund’s flexible investment approach will facilitate investment in opportunities where others cannot invest, as well as enabling Isara to take a longer-term view than traditional private equity investors. Practically, this means Isara can support the capital-intensive projects required to deliver radical improvement in the food industry which most investors are unable to deliver.

The fund is backed by the Sadel Group, a private family office which invests and operates in the Real Estate, Cold Storage and Energy sectors, predominantly in the UK & Western Europe. The Isara team will execute their own separate acquisition and investment thesis, while also being able to leverage the high level of technical skill present in existing Sadel businesses to help implement value creation plans where relevant.

Specific areas of consideration for Isara will include improving the carbon footprint of the businesses they invest in, ensuring industry leading corporate governance, supporting and strengthening leadership teams and workforces, and creating sustainable growth.

Michael Rice said: “We are on the cusp of a potential food crisis in the UK. We believe existing food production and supply chains have become inherently inefficient, and are under unsustainable levels of strain from a number of factors including the coronavirus crisis, increasing energy costs, food inflation and financial market volatility.

“At Isara, our fund will be used to champion increasing the efficiency and sustainability of food systems, seeking to address the challenges of long-term underinvestment, labour supply challenges, supply chain security and sustainability. Not only is this good business, but this will also create seismic benefits for the wider economy and, ultimately, the sector’s impact on the planet.”

Nomadic Dairy taps into protein’s continued growth

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Nomadic Dairy has made its first foray into a significant non-yogurt category with two protein puddings, launching this week in SPAR stores nationwide. The two flavours – vanilla and chocolate – will then go into Morrisons in early January 2023. Each 200g pot contains 20g of protein, is low in fat and contains no added sugar – ticking all the right boxes for a growing number of consumers who want to boost their protein intake. These are no longer just gym-goers, but, increasingly, those with a busy lifestyle – in the ‘Active Health’ category. In yogurts and potted desserts, active health has seen the strongest growth in volumes – up 4.4% (+£6m) – and is now worth £83.3m (Kantar 52 w/w 12 June 2022). Nomadic believes its focus on great taste can generate cut-through in the busy protein space. Bethan Miles, brand manager at Nomadic Dairy, said: “We’re keenly aware of the shift in protein products’ appeal which has significantly expanded consumer demand. Whether people are gym goers or just plain busy, these protein-packed puddings represent functional, but easy and great-tasting, additions to on-the-go diets. Our competitive ‘edge’ is a focus on taste, which we think has almost been an afterthought for others.” Nomadic Dairy Protein Puddings, vanilla and chocolate, 200g pot, RRP £1.89.

How automation will bring predictability back to your business: By Scott Keefauver, Executive Director Marketing – Equipment and Automation – Sealed Air

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What if your food processing plant ran with the same performance qualities you expect to find in a high-precision watch? Your fine timepiece runs at a stable rate, day in and day out. You can count on it keeping time and being there for you when you need it. It performs exactly as you expect, no surprises, no flaws. It’s precise, predictable and reliable. Now, imagine these attributes apply to your business. Your current operational challenges aren’t challenges anymore, and your plant is humming along efficiently and sustainably. Employees are productive and fulfilled, and you have the right people in the right positions, all the time. Furthermore, you have all the data you need, where you need it and when you need it. If there is an equipment issue, the issue is diagnosed quickly and repaired cost-effectively, thanks to remote diagnostics and your access to the experts who provide insights and solutions. Potential issues are identified and solved before they have the chance to become problems. Bottom line is, your business runs like a well-oiled machine, predictably and immune to the chaos of influences beyond your control. Sounds a little like an alternate reality, doesn’t it? But it’s all possible with touchless automation. Touchless automation systems already are revolutionizing the way businesses operate, bringing things back into order, providing predictability and efficiency. An automated environment provides the ability to maximize safety, increase worker satisfaction, minimize waste, protect goods and deliver productivity savings. In other words, machine intelligence optimizes performance and create the highest levels of productivity, while ensuring the most profitable outcome. For meat processors who are striving to bring predictability back to their business, the future of their business may rely heavily on how they incorporate automation into their operations. What Automation Means for You While automation may bring to mind thoughts of faster machines and fewer people on the line, it’s about much, much more. Automation is about a commitment to a successful future, one that promotes the optimization of your labor force, the power of connectivity and better insights, and the predictability that comes from a totally integrated solution. Let’s take a closer look into this solution for success:
  • Labor optimization. Not labor reduction. Automation is about removing the uncertainty of day-to-day operations. It allows you to optimize the labor you have, while combatting labor turnover costs and minimizing disruption that can occur from daily unexpected labor shortages.
With an automated environment, new employees are trained and become productive quicker, and existing employees will find more satisfaction in their jobs. From the plant manager to a production line worker, automation will make their jobs more rewarding, more efficient and safer. For example, a fully automated production line will allow one employee, who formerly filled bags or performed other mundane tasks, to become a production line manager, overseeing all aspects of the line as the automated system loads the bags, fills the bags, and then advances to rotary chambers for vacuum and sealing. At the same time, the plant manager, who in the past spent much of their time gathering and calculating information from the plant floor, now has an entirely new visualization with the data produced from an automated system and can spend their time understanding and using the information rather than trying to gather it. And with a touchless automation system, not only does it mean that fewer people will need to touch the product, making the process faster and more efficient, it also creates a more sanitary and safer environment, especially important where food quality and safety are concerned. Overall, with automation, a business can use their people to their greatest advantage and strengths and leave the mundane work to the robots.
  • The power of connectivity. Remote connectivity allows service technicians to leverage data to provide better insights and enable continuous improvement to line performance. This helps reduce downtime, allows you to quickly detect problems to prevent huge repairs later, extends equipment service life and reduces overtime costs.
Imagine a piece of equipment suddenly has a problem, and rather than spending a lot of time trying to diagnose the problem, and perhaps going through 20 or more fixes before you get at the root of the problem, you have all the data and expertise at your fingertips to fix the problem quickly and cost-effectively through remote connectivity. These insights also help predict when things are going to fail, so problems can be solved before they happen. This type of predictive maintenance is yet another way to bring predictability back to business. Connectivity and the insights it provides also helps to ensure the highest product integrity, delivering a consistent result, protecting your brand reputation and adding to customer satisfaction when they purchase your products. Additionally, connecting to machines with advanced features is easier. They offer a simplified learning path, are more ergonomic, and ultimately safer for employees.
  • Predictability with a totally integrated solution. Packaging automation has become every bit as much about protecting production as it is enhancing it. It’s about reducing risk and finding a way to ensure your operation runs regardless of who does or does not show up for work that day. It’s about bringing predictability back to your plant by creating an environment that’s safe, flexible, and less dependent on restricted or uncertain resources.
And it goes beyond the package. When you think about automation, and the predictability that it brings, think about the entire production process… from the time the product arrives at the plant to the time it is put on the truck for delivery. For example, automation goes both upstream and downstream of the packaging process. The integration of vision systems augmented with machine learning can help to identify, sort, and find visual defects on each product as it goes through the process. This type of product traceability system helps ensure the optimal performance of automation equipment throughout the process. A Holistic Approach to Automation Think about automation as a commitment to a better tomorrow, and a commitment to your business. Investing in automation, Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies can help you make smarter, faster, and more proactive decisions about your operations to help maximize labor efficiency and productivity while minimizing downtime and reducing total operating costs. And remember that automation goes beyond packaging to include the entire production process. Automated solutions such as automated cartoning systems, infeeds, conveyors, shrink wrappers, and shrink tunnels are designed to dramatically shorten the packaging process by automating repetitive tasks such as lifting, turning, loading and sealing. For the right solution you’ll want to consider the total system, the scale of operation and the range of complexity. From setup to post-installation to maintenance, automation requires a multi-faceted approach. It’s not a one-size fits all endeavor. Automation can change the way the industry operates by changing how we address and respond to challenges. Touchless automated solutions are designed to bring consistency and predictability back to businesses and control back to our customers. With packaging automation, we can reduce chaos and find the way forward to a better and more predictable future.

Dust extraction specialist announces attendance at UK’s premier manufacturing event

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Dustcontrol UK is set to exhibit its collection of high-performance extraction equipment at Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2023. Taking place from Tuesday, February 7th to Thursday, February 9th at the Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre, Hampshire, the Dustcontrol team will be showcasing the firm’s extensive range of both fixed and mobile cyclone-based dust extractors and air cleaners, at Stand L170. Some of the equipment attendees will be able to see up close includes the DC Tromb 400, Dustcontrol’s most powerful single-phase dust extractor. The unit has been designed to meet modern safety requirements and work in conjunction with tools that have become ever more efficient in manufacturing processes. The powerful DC 2900 range will also be on display, which can be used for industrial vacuuming or on-tool dust extraction. Its suction casings make it particularly effective for dust-creating activities. In addition, Dustcontrol’s range of DC AirCubes will be exhibited at the event, which are the perfect complimentary background air cleaners to at-source extraction, circulating clean air back into an area used for dust-creating activities and providing greater extraction efficiency. Rounding off the equipment on display will be the DC 1800 EX and DCF 60 Pre-Separator, along with a range of accessories including ATEX and suction cases. Ira Morris, Country Manager of Dustcontrol UK, said: “Once again, Southern Manufacturing & Electronics promises to be another great event for those within the industry. With an expected 800 exhibitors and 9,000 guests in attendance, we’re excited to be hosting live demonstrations of our vacuum systems to showcase their effective dust extraction capabilities.” The company, based in Milton Keynes, has 50 years of experience in developing dust extraction solutions and centralised vacuum systems to fit client requirements in the manufacturing industry, including electronics, healthcare production, and aviation. They are experts in problem-solving with a high technical capability of capturing dust at its source, then containing and transporting it to a convenient discharge solution. Southern Manufacturing and Electronics is the most comprehensive annual industrial exhibition in the UK. Having been held for over 20 years, the event has fast become a major pan-European showcase for new technology in machinery, production equipment, electronic production and assembly, tooling, components, and subcontract services across a wide range of industries. Ira concluded: “The event will enable us to show key personnel in the manufacturing and electronics industry how our expertise in efficient dust extraction can help businesses stay healthy.”