ThinkstockPhotos lamb

Source: Thinkstock 

Pilgrim’s said the deal for RPF would allow it to better target the export market for lamb

Pork giant Pilgrim’s UK has expanded its presence in the lamb category with the acquisition of supplier Randall Parker Foods.

The deal, the value of which is undisclosed, will see Pilgrim’s absorb RPF’s two manufacturing facilities – an abattoir in Powys processing up to 20,000 lambs a week, and a retail packing plant in Andover, Hampshire – into its Dalehead Foods division.

All 350 of RPF’s employees, including its management teams, will remain in place under existing terms and conditions, said Pilgrim’s, which added that it also planned to invest further in the facilities.

Pilgrim’s claimed the acquisition showed its “commitment to British farming” and would help it capitalise on the popularity of British lamb with export customers, citing the fact the UK was the world’s fifth-largest producer of lamb and mutton and its third-largest exporter.

Dalehead had supplied customers with lamb for more than 40 years and had worked with RPF for almost 30 years, ensuring the deal was a “natural fit for both organisations”, said Pilgrim’s UK CEO Andrew Cracknell.

“Randall Parker Foods has a strong reputation as a processor of quality lamb,” he added.

“It will bring our lamb operations closer together into a single integrated supply chain, which will benefit team members and customers alike, securing jobs, investment and growth for a sustainable future,” Cracknell said.

“We look forward to working even more closely with the RPF teams whose energy, experience and enthusiasm, combined with the highest quality livestock, will offer customers and consumers a first-class supply chain for British lamb.”

RPF chair Ron Randall said the deal secured the future of the business, while RPF MD Jim Gaffney – who will continue to oversee operations at the two sites – said the future of the business “looks both secure and exciting. I look forward to working with new colleagues and our customers to achieve our common goals.”

The supplier saw turnover fall by 5.6% to £150.6m in the 52 weeks to 26 September 2020, accoridng to its latest accounts, filed with Companies House. A £734,000 profit in the previous year fell to a £2.3m loss.

The purchase of RPF follows a return to the black by Pilgrim’s in September, after it posted an operating profit of £10.3m for the 15 months ending 31 December 2020.

The business (under its previous name of Tulip) and former owner Danish Crown had experienced losses of more than £100m during the previous four years. However, the processor said it had bounced back under the ownership of US meat giant Pilgrim’s Pride after it had accelerated the turnaround plan initiated by Danish Crown.

It comes as Pilgrim’s announced plans last week to invest “significant” sums at its Bromborough factory on The Wirral over the coming months, in a bid to improve production efficiency and overall capacity.

The company said the investment would create new jobs and a single production site for all fresh and higher-welfare pork solutions.

Funds would also support further growth and expansion in terms of the plant’s capabilities, including new machinery and technologies in 2022, it added.

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