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Norfolk Business Awards 2018

Bernard Matthews ‘back on track’ after supermarket contract win leads to 400 new jobs

PUBLISHED: 14:32 16 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:24 17 August 2018

Bernard Matthews factory and Great Witchingham Hall 

Bernard Matthews factory and Great Witchingham Hall Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

Turkey giant Bernard Matthews says it is “back on track” after securing a major supermarket contract which has underpinned the creation of 400 new jobs.

Chris Just, the new chief executive officer at Bernard Matthews Picture: ANDREW SHERWOODChris Just, the new chief executive officer at Bernard Matthews Picture: ANDREW SHERWOOD

The firm is emerging from a turbulent time after coming close to collapse in 2013, when Rutland Partners stepped in, and tried to lead a turnaround.

In 2016, the Boparan Private Office, owned by food tycoon and 2 Sisters Food Group entrepreneur Ranjit Boparan, bought the firm in a pre-pack deal in 2016 from Rutland Partners, saving 2,000 jobs after the firm posted pre-tax losses of £5.2m.

Now it wants to create an extra 400 jobs at its Great Witchingham site after securing a “substantial amount of business” from a new agreement to supply cooked chicken to a major supermarket chain. It is also planning to invest in its Holton, Halesworth, site, in the next few years, it said.

The new roles were outlined by the company’s architects in a planning application submitted last month for a new plant room at Great Witchingham Hall – reported at the time.

Bernard Matthews factory Picture: ANTONY KELLYBernard Matthews factory Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Food firm high-flyer Chris Just, who was brought in to run the business earlier this year, said it was “an exciting development” and demonstrated that the firm had “turned the corner”.

“What’s great is that we have the ability to expand our capabilities and offer a cooked poultry product which is in such great demand,” said Mr Just.

“It is likely because of the scale of this new opportunity that we’re going to have to be innovative in the way we work and extend operations so we can fulfil orders. We’re delighted that the company has this opportunity and we can accordingly invest in the local and regional economy by providing new jobs and bringing about the associated opportunities that come with it from a supply chain and supplier perspective.”

Bernard Matthews Foods, launched in 1950, became the largest and most recognised turkey farmer and producer in the UK and supplies fresh, frozen and cooked turkey products to more than 6.8m households every year.

It is a major employer in Norfolk and Suffolk, with sales of £200m and a workforce of around 1500, including at its plant at Holton, near Halesworth, and its headquarters at Great Witchingham.

HR director Andrew Sherwood said it was “fantastic for the site and community”.

“There are lots of opportunities for people with the right attitude and talent to progress within the business and develop a great career here.”

The Norfolk site has already received “substantial investment” since 2016, the new owners said.

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