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Jobs boost for Fakenham

PUBLISHED: 09:37 21 November 2009 | UPDATED: 11:03 07 July 2010

Thirty five new jobs have been created at the Hain Frozen Foods factory in Fakenham thanks to creation of a £1.5m dessert plant.

The company, which makes the Linda McCartney brand of meat-free foods, will soon be supplying a range of sponge puddings and crumbles to a major multinational retailer.

Thirty five new jobs have been created at the Hain Frozen Foods factory in Fakenham thanks to creation of a £1.5m dessert plant.

The company, which makes the Linda McCartney brand of meat-free foods, will soon be supplying a range of sponge puddings and crumbles to a major multinational retailer.

The new facility has crowned two years of complete financial turnaround.

The production area, due to be formally unveiled later this year, took just 16 weeks to build after the contract was awarded in May, creating 35 jobs at the Holt Road site.

By the end of this financial year, the factory is expected to almost double its turnover from £14m to £25m and move from being a loss-making concern into a profitable one. It was also a finalist at last week's national Food Manufacture Excellence Awards.

But head of operations David Matwij said the outlook was very different when he joined last January - with some concerns the site could even have closed altogether.

He said the introduction of a "lean manufacturing" regime, a committed new management team and investment in machinery and product development had inspired the factory's resurgence.

"When I joined there were people within the business who had concerns about the future of Fakenham, but everything we have done here has completely turned that on its head.

"How many food businesses across the country have closed during this recession? But what we have done is grown and protected jobs by creating 35 positions and winning significant new business. It is a tremendous turnaround for any business to achieve. I feel like we have done four years work in two years."

Mr Matwij said a concentrated four-day shift pattern had brought £1m in efficiency savings and increased production capacity without cutting workers' hours. He also implemented a challenging set of performance targets - measuring everything from absence rates to product wastage - which are constantly reviewed to ensure the improvements are sustained.

"In January last year, the factory was growing but it was not efficiently aligned and the shift patterns were not correct for the volume we were producing," he said. "Everything needed to be challenged.

"Now, service levels are impeccable and we are becoming more and more efficient, but not at the expense of working hours. It is how we have made this business sustainable and been able to grow despite the economic downturn."

Staffing levels have fluctuated since US-based parent company Hain Celestial bought the factory in 2006. They dipped below 150 as the firm struggled to match output with demand, but have now recovered to more than 200.

Linda McCartney brand sales have grown 46pc year-on-year, aided by a brand re-launch and new products including Indian, Moroccan and Thai dishes. And last week, Hain Celestial Group reported its earnings per share had grown by 17.6pc during the first quarter of its financial year.

Chief executive Irwin Simon said: "We believe the company will continue to benefit from new customers at our Fakenham facility, where we have seen expansion of both the Linda McCartney brand and private label sales in the UK."

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