Browns Brechin

Source: Browns Food Group 

The processor said it was in discussions with major retailers over increasing the availability of Scottish pork following its acquisition of the Brechin abattoir in 2022

Browns Food Group has outlined ambitious plans to grow retail pork sales in Scotland by £100m within the next five years, just over two years after it acquired the loss-making Brechin abattoir.

The future of the then Quality Pork Processors site was secured when Browns acquired it in February 2022, from farming co-ops Scotlean and Scottish Pig Producers and pork giant Pilgrim’s UK – which was its sole customer.

The Brechin plant is Scotland’s only major pig abattoir, with its acquisition by family-owned Browns complementing the company’s existing network of six processing sites within Scotland’s central belt, and helping cut out half a million road miles of “wasted transport” a year, according to Browns CEO Wayne Godfrey.

Prior to the acquisition, which reinforced Browns’ position as Scotland’s leading pork processor, Pilgrim’s UK would slaughter Scottish pork at Brechin, before transporting primal cuts to England to be further processed, Godfrey said.

“Every part of the animal would travel south to a further processing site [within the Pilgrim’s network] and in some cases on to another site to be retail-packed before it then travelled all the way back to Scotland,” he told The Grocer.

Bringing Brechin into Browns’ network was “good for everyone and even more so for the farmers. For them it would have been catastrophic for the plant to close”, he added, pointing to the negative impact having no primary processing plant in Scotland would have on the market. 

Now, in partnership with Quality Meat Scotland, Browns is looking to increase production of Scottish QMS Specially Selected-accredited pork for the retail sector north of the border, helped by the fact it now had a fully integrated processing supply chain, from primary through to added-value.

Growth would be driven by increasing throughput via Brechin – which is currently operating at around 50% capacity – coupled with increased capacity at sites such as its recently expanded Kelloholm added-value plant.

Its 50 sq ft extension was opened by the Princess Royal in March and would enable Browns to expand its product range in own label and under its Kilted Pork Company brand, further enhancing its offering of added-value cooked meats, sausages, and fresh pork, Godfrey added.

“We’ve already had some great support from supermarkets in Scotland on branded but we now want to tap into more own label in better and best ranges too – we should have [more] Scottish produce in there and we can now offer that [full] supply chain to the retailers.”

The Brechin site needed to hit 100% capacity within the next two years, he added, with Browns having now “proven ourselves” to the mults and in discussions with existing partners Tesco, Lidl and Sainsbury’s over increasing Scottish pork volumes.

“All we need to do is replace a bit of British pork or foreign pork that’s coming into Scotland, and even if we fill Brechin in the longer term that will still only equate to about 25%-40% of our consumption of pork in Scotland,” he said, pointing to the opportunities for growth.

Browns saw sales increase by 15.6% to £194.3m in its most recent accounts for the year to 31 December 2022, posted with Companies House last autumn. Pre-tax profits rose by just under 21% to £13.4m.