Bernard Matthews is to switch its entire range of turkey products to 100%-British turkey as it looks to repair the damage caused by last February's avian flu outbreak, The Grocer can reveal.
The company has pledged to increase its 95% UK-sourced supply to 100% Quality British Turkey and Red Tractor-assured meat in all turkey lines by August.
It follows what marketing director Matthew Pullen described as a "kick up the backside" after last year's outbreak cost the business tens of millions of pounds when it was revealed the company was importing turkey meat from Hungary, thought to be the source of the outbreak.
The crisis cost the producer £43m as an exceptional loss for the financial year, after sales slumped 40%.
As an interim measure to stem criticism and introduce greater transparency, it introduced country-of-origin labels on all products last summer. The move to 100%-British was part of a wider plan to put the company's focus "back on British agriculture", said Pullen. "Rebuilding the trust and confidence of the consumer is key. We must get back to championing British turkey," he added.
Pullen conceded that a certain number of consumers felt Bernard Matthews had been disingenuous by using imported meat, adding that some "less frequent shoppers" had stopped buying its products. However, this week's announcement would help restore shoppers' faith in the quality of the products, he said. Bernard Matthews was also planning a number of initiatives and launches over the coming year, he revealed.
"Avian flu was a critical event in our history," said Pullen. "But we already knew the brand was not going in the right direction. It's been a kick up the backside for our business."
As part of a strategy to refocus on its core turkey business, the company sold its sandwich production and van sales division to Kerry Foods earlier this year. The company has not yet committed to sourcing 100%-British on the small range of other meats it supplies.