Fresh-Pak Chilled Foods Ltd is one of the largest producers and suppliers of convenience foods in the UK and in particular egg mayonnaise sandwich fillings to the growing retail sandwich market. Fresh-Pak is owned as a subsidiary by Perkins Foods, who acquired the company in July 1998 for £9.7m.

Fresh-Pak completed the fitting out of phase one of a new egg mayonnaise production facility in June 2004. The plant required an investment of £7.5m, which was announced in October 2003 as part of a two-year plan to outfit a state-of-the-art new production facility for egg-based products. The plant has 35,000ft² of floor space but the phase two expansion added 15,000ft² to incorporate several new production lines that were commissioned in 2005. In addition 10,000ft² was added to the dispatch area. The phase two fit out of the factory was in operation from March 2005 with all building works complete by August 2005.

Recruitment began for the new plant in August 2004 to find 70 food production operatives, team leaders and supervisors. The phase two expansion added a further 50 staff to the workforce bringing the total to 120, and cost an additional £3.5m. A further enhancement to the plant in 2006 saw the addition of new high-speed packing lines and the installation of on-site facilities for the manufacture of mayonnaise.

SANDWICHES ARE A GROWING MARKET

The facility is now the largest supplier of egg mayonnaise to the UK sandwich market (estimated at 200t per week). The sandwich market is a rapidly growing area in the food industry (currently 10% per year) and so the facility is seen as a response to an established and increasing market demand.

Fresh-Pak has been one of the main suppliers of egg mayonnaise to the European market for several years, but the sophistication of the fillings is increasing and so more products have been added to the Fresh-Pak range. Fresh-Pak also produces Cheese and Onion, Coronation Chicken, Tuna Mayonnaise and Prawn Mayonnaise sandwich filling in a number of different pack sizes to suit all sandwich operations. Supplying most of the country’s best-known retailers, Fresh-Pak prides itself on delivering high quality products made with only the freshest ingredients.

CONTRACTOR

The contract to fit out the already built factory building on a 10-acre site in Waterside Park, Barnsley, UK, was awarded to SBH UK, a specialist industrial and warehouse property company. The project involved the fitting out of a new egg processing plant with boiler systems, compressed air systems, water storage, steam systems, cleaning and hygiene systems, cooking systems, processing machinery, waste water and effluent systems, packaging systems (form-fill-seal lines and retail packaging lines) and a number of food-safe ‘cleanrooms’ of various specifications.

EGG MAYONNAISE PRODUCTION

Eggs are delivered on pallets and then logged, recorded and placed in cold storage before processing. The process is fully traceable from the end product back to each pallet of eggs; random samples are also taken from each pallet for quality control checking before it is passed to the process stage. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) carries out a monthly inspection of the plant and the plant’s customers (sandwich producers) have their own technicians carrying out inspections.

The cooking process is carried out by four boiling machines that are equipped with a suction loading process for lowering eggs into the water (this is rather more gentle than previous equipment designs and so there are fewer breakages). The cooked eggs are cooled in a bath for 25 minutes. The bath is designed with a slow-moving conveyor which ensures that the coolest ones reach the end first.

The cooled eggs are shelled by gentle agitation and a rolling machine carries the cooked-shelled egg through a final washing process. Prior to chopping, the eggs are arranged in batches, coded and then chilled for four hours (to achieve the best texture). The plant cooks and processes over 2 billion eggs per year. The plant cooks and processes over 2 billion eggs per year. The eggs are then chopped and compounded into the required recipes with mayonnaise and other ingredients before being packed into containers, bar-coded, checked with x-ray detection equipment and passed to the chilled warehousing of the dispatch department. At dispatch containers are palletised, labelled and shrink-wrapped.

EGG SOURCING

The new processing plant does not have an attached farm where hens produce eggs to supply it. The eggs are bought in the most competitive markets across the European Union but primarily from Spain, Germany and Holland. The eggs are approximately 80% from intensive farming and 20% from free-range farming. The plant can process over five million eggs per week at its current capacity and will be capable of processing over seven million per week following the phase two expansion (in excess of 250t of egg mayonnaise per week will be produced). Phase three is still in the planning stage but it is expected that the operation will be increased in size to accommodate the growing market for other sandwich fillings beside the egg mayonnaise.

FOOD SAFETY

In a drive to equip all employees to deliver best performance, Fresh-Pak chose the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Intermediate Certificate in Food Safety as a major training initiative at its flagship site in Barnsley. This initiative is one of a number of training and development activities happening within the business to build and develop the team at Fresh Pak. It equips staff with the knowledge, understanding and practical expertise to implement, maintain and monitor good food hygiene procedures.

Twelve employees from across the departments worked to achieve Certification with 100% pass rate and several employees expressed an interest in going on to obtain Advanced Certificates. Simon Scrivens, Managing Director at Fresh-Pak Ltd said: “I am delighted at this achievement from a number of our employees. Fresh-Pak is committed to helping its staff reach their full potential so that together we can deliver the very best products to our customers.”