Pork giant Cranswick spent more than £8 million implementing Covid-19 measures and had to stockpile key ingredients out of fear of supply-chain issues, the firm's interim results have revealed.

The £8.2 million spend included a £500 bonus paid to all on-site staff in June to recognise their essential key worker status and valued contribution throughout the pandemic.

The report titled "strong performance in a challenging environment" covers the 26 weeks up until September 26, and saw the firm post a 21% increase in sales (up from £770 million in 2019 to £931.6 million this year).

Margins also increased slightly as did the group's adjusted profits before tax, which rose from £46.4 million last year to £60.7 million in 2020.

Cranswick was founded by farmers in East Yorkshire in the late 1970s but today employs 12,500 people across 16 sites in the UK, including it's Ballymena site in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.

But despite the expense of implementing new systems and processes to reduce physical contact between staff, additional cleaning, and physical protection measures, the firm still saw outbreaks of the virus affect production at least two of its sites.

"Localised outbreaks disrupted operations, for short periods, at a small number of our sites," the report stated.

"We closed our Ballymena, Northern Ireland, primary processing facility for 14 days to protect our colleagues following an outbreak in the local community which affected a small number of our site team."

The report also revealed that the group had identified several risks related to Covid-19 - such as supply-chain issues, the risk of local lockdowns closing sites.

As a result, key ingredients and packaging had been stockpiled and plans had been put in place to divert production to alternate sites as necessary.

Mitigation strategies included:

  • Staggering shift patterns and breaks;
  • Establishing new communal areas;
  • Providing additional personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Restrictions when operating machinery; and
  • Constant communication to employees.

However, the report also acknowledges lockdown saw an "immediate change" to consumer purchasing, resulting in a substantial increase to retail demand for pork products.

The group has even managed to expand during the pandemic, with a £20 million investment in new Hull cooked bacon facility now said to be "well advanced" and "progressing to plan".

Adam Couch, Cranswick’s chief executive officer said: “I am incredibly proud of our colleagues who have performed so brilliantly in responding to the extraordinary and unparalleled challenges we currently face.

"I would again like to thank them for their professionalism, commitment, dedication and passion.

We have made a strong start to the year. Although we remain cautious about the longer-term economic impact of Covid-19 and the continued uncertainty surrounding the ongoing Brexit negotiations, we are well-positioned to address these challenges.

“Our outlook for the current year is unchanged and we have a solid platform from which to continue Cranswick’s successful long-term development.”