Weetabix halts production of Minis and Oatibix Bites following poor wheat harvest

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Weetabix has halted production of Minis and Oatibix Bites due to the poor quality of the UK wheat harvest.

Last year’s wheat crop was one of the worst in decades, and the supplier - which is committed to using only British wheat - has been forced to stop producing all but one line in the two mini ranges while it changes its production methods to counteract the poor quality of the wheat.

The news comes three months after bread brand Hovis was forced to renege on its 100%-British wheat commitment because of the poor harvest.

“The lower density of the wheat from last year’s harvest has led to operational issues,” said a spokesman for Weetabix Food Company, adding that the changes being made to the production process had resulted in “significant” engineering work and had forced it to reduce output at the Burton Latimer site that produces Minis.

The wheat problem had been building since last year’s poor harvest, the spokesman said, but the company did not run into significant capacity problems until late last month when it notified retailers.

Production of all Minis variants excluding chocolate chip - the most popular - had been halted. “The chocolate chip variant has been our priority to keep in stock,” said the company. Production of Oatibix Bites, which do not contain wheat, has been halted as a knock-on effect of the changes.

Weetabix would not say what volume of product had been affected by the stoppage, but claimed the issue was “nearly” resolved and that the products would be back in full production shortly.

Supermarkets have been running out of Minis, and have put up notices alerting shoppers to the issue. Weetabix is issuing a statement to consumers who contact it that reads: “Unfortunately, we have encountered a number of technical difficulties in recent weeks and we have been unable to make mini biscuits that meet our high standards of excellence.” It also assures consumers the company is doing “everything we can to resolve this situation as quickly as possible”, and offers a voucher to put towards their next purchase.

Investec analyst Martin Deboo said it was the quality and low protein content of the wheat harvest, rather than its lower yield, that had caused problems for suppliers. Planting for the coming season had been poor, he added. “The early signs are not good because of the cold weather during the planting season,” he said. “There may be a small-sized harvest in terms of tonnage, but much will depend on the summer weather.”

Weetabix said it had concerns over the low level of planting for this year but remained committed to UK sourcing.

Read this: Weetabix TV ad urges shoppers to pay by picture

Readers' comments (3)

  • This is fascinating - and almost unbelievable. Would a major brand really stop production to maintain a provenance claim? (Albeit a very prominent one). The Guardian version of this story says that overseas wheat has been purchased anyway to re-start production... and the last bad harvest was many months ago. Other manufacturers have not been scared to back-track on British sourcing commitments as they - rightly - know the consumer will understand (e.g. United Biscuits, Premier). Anyone else have any views?

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  • Why is it not possible to make oatibix bites when there are plenty of oatibix ordinary size cereals and also oatbix flakes?

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  • agree with Margaret Hallm--if they are making the bigger ones then surely there is the ingredients for the bites. come on get real, you cannot fob us off like that. Ah well--will just have to change to another product. All I can say is I shop in every supermarket and I have NEVER seen any signage about this problem and as for a voucher--ha I bet all the staff have kept them for themselves

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