Award for meat firm
A NICHE poultry business is on a high after winging its way to success in a national awards.
Gressingham Foods, which employs 550 staff across East Anglia and is based at Debach, near Woodbridge, took the Employer of the Year title at the 2011 Food and Farming Industry Awards, which took place at the House of Commons earlier this month.
Another family business, Suffolk Food Hall, based on the Pauls’ family farm at Wherstead, near Ipswich, is also celebrating after it was highly commended in the Retailer of the Year category. It was nominated for the award by customer Jonathan Agar.
The Gressingham business, which specialises in duck meat and other niche poultry products, was praised by the judges for its “very strong team ethos that creates a clear sense of belonging”.
Judges were also impressed by its “active and robust” health and safety culture, and its training and staff development.
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“A company is only as good as the staff that work within it. The company run a continual staff training and development programme, with farming, factory and management staff all being given the opportunity to attend courses, development programmes and seminars pertinent to their roles within the business,” they said.
The bulk of Gressingham’s staff is based at its two production sites at Redgrave, near Diss, and at Debach where the company produces ducks geese, poutry and makes ready meals under the Gressingham name.
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Suffolk Food Hall, which has seen its turnover rise to �2million a year since opening in 2007 and now employs 55 staff. Businesses within the hall include a wet fish counter, on-farm butchery, a 160-seat restaurant and a commercial kitchen.
“They are proud of their growth in just four years and that they have been operationally profitable in every month since opening,” judges said.
Gressingham managing director Geoffrey Buchanan said: “When we were approached and asked if we would be interested in entering the ‘Employer of the Year’ category, we saw this as an opportunity to share with the rest of the industry all the health and safety and training incentives we’ve put in place for our employees over recent years. We’ve worked hard to ensure there are training opportunities available for everyone.”
Wherever possible, it tries to recruit from the local area, advertising vacancies in local newspapers and on its website. It has formed a relationship with a local high school and attends regular recruitment fairs at the school, to help local students understand that there are a broad variety of careers available in the region, with the long-term aim of trying to keep a good employee skill base within the local region.
It also aims to recruit from within, with its own employees given the opportunity to rise to the occasion first.
It runs a continual staff training and development programme, with farming, factory and management staff all being given the opportunity to attend courses, development programmes and seminars pertinent to their roles within the business.
In the past two years, all of its 500 plus staff have undertaken at least one course.
All employees are able to have a say in how the farms and factories are run, health and safety issues and changes to processes and procedures. The firm holds either bi-monthly or quarterly committee meetings with each area of the business, to which representatives of each section is invited.