'Business as usual' as firm goes Dutch

A DUTCH farming group stressed yesterday it was “business as usual” after acquiring a large UK-based food company with major operations in Suffolk and Essex.

A DUTCH farming group stressed yesterday it was “business as usual” after acquiring a large UK-based food company with major operations in Suffolk and Essex.

Grampian Country Food Group, which employs around 2,200 people across the two counties, including sites at Haverhill, Eye and Witham, has been bought by European food company VION for an undisclosed sum in a deal sealed on Saturday .

VION, which has an annual turnover of more than 7.1billion euros and employs 18,000 people worldwide, is owned by the Dutch Southern Agricultural and Horticultural Farmers' Union, which has 18,000 members.

Grampian, based at Livingston in Scotland, employs 17,500 staff across the UK and Thailand and has a pork processing plant at Haverhill with a 1,000-strong workforce, and 900 staff spread across its chicken facilities in Eye and Witham. A further 300 to 400 of its staff work at various other Suffolk farms, a hatchery, and a food mill at Stoke Ferry in Norfolk.


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Grampian group managing director Eddie Power welcomed the deal.

“This is an excellent outcome to the process which has been ongoing for some months and brings an end to speculation surrounding the Grampian business,” he said.

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“VION has a successful track record in both meat processing and convenience foods for many years in Europe, and latterly in the UK. We are confident that the combined UK-based companies, which will continue to be managed from the UK, will benefit from the major strengths that this unique combination will provide.

“VION has ambitious plans for investment, development and growth in the UK from which the Grampian business and its farmer suppliers will benefit.”

The acquisition will see VION strengthen its position in the UK, where it already owns fresh pork, bacon and sausage operations. Bacon processor Key Country Foods is based in Scunthorpe, and pizza and sausage supplier J&J Tranfield is based in Sheffield. It also owns Oerlemans Foods, which sells frozen vegetables, potato products and fruit.

Daan van Doorn, chairman of the VION board of management, said the acquisition of Grampian was “key” to its plans for developing in the UK.

“This announcement is evidence of the great importance VION attaches to the UK market. At the heart of VION's business is a passion for better food and Grampian is key to developing this strategy,” he said.

“The combined group will become a major player in the UK food industry. Together with Grampian's management, we want to further intensify the co-operation with our retail clients by investing in Grampian, sharing knowledge and co-operation with our retail clients by investing in Grampian, sharing knowledge and developing partnerships.”

A spokesperson from the VION press office said the firm had plans for investment and growth in the Grampian group following the purchase, and pointed out that the company had “a very good track record” for doing this.

“It's completely business as usual,” she said.

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