Ornua Leek

Source: Ornua Foods UK 

The dairy co-op said the investment would help it meet ’strong growth in both branded and own label cheese’

Ornua Foods UK is investing £3m in new cutting and packing equipment in a bid to boost production capacity at its Leek headquarters.

The Pilgrims Choice owner and UK arm of Irish dairy co-op Ornua is to install an additional high-speed cheese slicing line, while also further expanding its cheese grating capabilities as part of the investment.

It means the facility will be able to process an extra 7,000 tonnes of cheese once the new tech goes online at the end of the year, taking its total annual production capacity to 110,000 tonnes.

The new investment at Leek comes at a time when the supplier is experiencing strong growth in both branded and own label cheese. It said total value sales through major UK retailers had increased by 15% to date in 2020 [IRI 52 w/e 6 September].

Value sales for Pilgrims Choice grew by 25% over the same period, outperforming the category by 10%, it added.

This increase could be linked in part to the “significant change in consumer buying patterns witnessed during the Covid-19 lockdown and Ornua’s effective management – in close collaboration with its customers – of the resulting surge in demand”, it said.

It also reflected the longer-term underlying performance of the business and its strategic focus on “investing in its capability to produce a comprehensive range of high-quality branded and own label products in the most consistent and efficient manner possible”.

The investment would allow the business to deliver “further improvements in yield and efficiencies, as well as allowing us to respond to growing consumer demand for cheese in sliced and grated formats”, said Ornua Foods UK MD Bill Hunter.