Walkers Giant Wotsits production

Source: PepsiCo

The installation of a new production line will allow Wotsits Giants, which are currently manufactured in Europe, to be made in Leicester

PepsiCo is to invest £58m in its Walkers Leicester production site – its biggest investment in the UK in 25 years.

It is to install a new manufacturing line, replace existing machinery with more sustainable alternatives, and upgrade employee facilities for the site’s 1,120-strong workforce.

The new line will increase capacity at the factory, boosting production of Walkers brands Wotsits and Monster Munch.

Wotsits Giants and Monster Munch Giants, which are currently manufactured in Europe, will be made in Leicester once construction is complete in 2024.

This move would help reduce transport-related emissions by an estimated 915 tonnes a year, equivalent to taking around 540 cars off UK roads, according to PepsiCo.

PepsiCo will also swap the factory’s gas-fired ovens to electric ones, supplied with 100% renewable electricity – a move it claims will cut around 1,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Additionally, it will install compact packaging equipment, which will allow it to reduce the amount of virgin plastic used in multipack outer packaging by 56 tonnes a year.

The investment will also fund the installation of new “ingredient technology”, to enable the development of further healthier ranges from 2024.

A major refurbishment of employee facilities is also underway, with training areas, a new on-site restaurant, modern meeting rooms and a dedicated celebration space near completion.

According to PepsiCo, the upgrades would open up training and upskilling opportunities for its 1,120 Leicester employees, with up to 100 new roles being created to manage workload across the new equipment and technology.

It said the investment would help it achieve its ambition for half of Walkers’ snack sales to come from products that were non-HFSS or sold in portions of 100 calories or under by 2025; to eliminate virgin fossil-based plastic from its crisps and snack packs across Europe by 2030; and to reach net zero by 2040.

“In 2023 we’re celebrating 75 years of Walkers crisps, so there’s no better time to renew our commitment to Leicester – a city and community that have been crucial to our success in the UK,” said PepsiCo UK & Ireland SVP & GM Jason Richards.

The investment aimed to “future-proof” the Leicester site, allowing PepsiCo to “deliver on our ambitions on packaging and health”, Richards added.

“Alongside upgrades to meet increased demand for our snacks, we’re proud to be investing in creating better facilities for our people, who remain at the heart of bringing our most loved snacks to households across the country.”

It comes after PepsiCo completed a £14m upgrade of its Leicester distribution centre in 2021.