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Before yesterday’s election, I was struck by the ongoing, seemingly cross-party, naivety that inflation was on the way down. In the food industry, however, the reality continues to be the opposite.  One thing is clear: we will continue to see wage inflation, raw material inflation, and another energy price hike. As a result, we will see a continued decrease in margins.

So where does that leave smaller, independent companies in the food industry, such as us? How can we make a difference from one factory in Bedale?

The answer is to continue doing what we’ve always been good at: looking to the next level of innovation to create our own future and growth, so we can reinvest back into the business and community.

The rise in costs has only intensified the need for efficiency. You can engineer the production chain with manual input and state-of-the-art equipment, but I believe we can go much further.

A recent survey by Lucidworks of 400 B2B manufacturing companies revealed 93% of these firms plan to escalate their AI investments in 2024. While some companies are simply trying to keep up with technology, many of them, including ourselves, are fundamentally rethinking their operations.

Retailers are already using different aspects of AI across their stores. And we are about to commit our first £500k investment into state-of-the-art AI at our sausage and burger HQ. 

So how does AI help? Let’s start with production. AI can be used to predict production issues related to machine maintenance and operation,  allowing us to minimise downtime and improve operational efficiency.

Then we can look at supply chain resilience. One of the big takeaways of the recent few months’ spate of food scares and product recalls is the vulnerability of supply chains and food safety. AI-enabled imaging and other sensor data can help improve quality control during the production process.

AI can also analyse supply chain data to forecast demand, optimise inventory and reduce waste. Experts are predicting the technology can save 300,000 tonnes of food supermarkets waste every year. 


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Then there’s the all-important trend forecasting. AI can rapidly analyse and predict trends and, therefore, provide a unique advantage in foreseeing and adapting to new food fashions and being ahead of the curve. That’s helped us react almost overnight to the things our customers really want, while bringing in great new ideas from all over the world.

We recently launched sausage rashers, a US trend that is now taking the UK by storm. Working with AI can bring more exciting food to the shelves, while at the same time being healthy and tasty, and providing real solutions in the category.

We’ve always believed that to encourage the best talent into our industry, we must make the food industry more exciting and rewarding. We have always had an ambition to bring “Silicon Valley” to North Yorkshire, not by overinflating the value of food companies, as we’ve recently seen, but by building long-term knowledge and skills. The new government needs to support these businesses and encourage the growth and long-term sustainability of smaller food companies.

I believe, by investing in AI, we can create more roles within the business dedicated to transformation, while staying true to the core values that people love.