Federico Ercoli travels to Nottinghamshire to learn more about cold-pressed oil manufacturer Phoenix Group.
Being born by the seaside and growing up in the countryside had its perks. in particular, I learnt how to work with many of mother earth’s fruits. Olive picking and pressing season was exhausting, requiring patience and an army of strong hands, but in the end, the process was a rewarding one.
These fond memories were all brought back during my trip to Phoenix Group in Redhill, Nottingham. The company, formed in 2004 by Nottinghamshire farming businesses, is the largest cold-pressed seed oil facility in the UK. My nostalgia and sheer curiosity were justified.
Phoenix Group’s facilities are buried deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside and as picturesque as the location is, finding it was a cabby’s nightmare. However, once arrived, the lush scenery was blissfully soothing to the eyes of a Londoner.
After being warmly greeted by managing director, Ben Guy, he showed me the grounds and enlightened me on his line of work. “The main seed that we press would be rapeseed oil, of which most is going into the culinary market,” he explains.
I asked him if they press olives and the answer did not surprise me, “No, but we have the capacity to press other seed oils like sunflower or linseed oil. In the main, at the moment, the UK market wants rapeseed oil. Beyond that we also co-pack. Filling or packing services of oils and other products that the market requires.”
With facilities allowing for pressing, filling and packaging all on one site, I wondered what the demand for such services is and if Phoenix Group could confirm the food and drink industry is still the number one manufacturing sector in the UK.
“The oil market will grow as the retail market for it grows. It has seen significant growth over the last couple of years. Double digits from 2012 but it will steady off as saturation of retailers happens. We anticipated still growth, but perhaps not as fast as it has. Co-packing also continues to grow and we’re really happy with how UK retailers, manufacturers and brands look to access our work,” Guy said.
In fact, the most recent figures from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) confirm this as a common growing trend in the industry. The sector accounts for almost 16% of the total UK manufacturing turnover and seems to be on the rise.
One of the reasons behind this, is that food manufacturers nowadays no longer simply produce consumer goods, they can also be a service business that operates in and for the industry.
“The cold pressed oils that we produce are service-based and the biggest thing for our service clients is that they can see what we are doing. It gives them comfort that we are doing it right and it also means that they give us the trust of managing a full supply chain,” Guy tells me.
“All of our quality controls, line startup checks, production step checks, all of our inventory management… has moved on to app-based technology that we have designed. This means clients can now log into a portal and immediately get access to that data and have the comfort that we are doing it right,” he added.
Travelling the UK and meeting manufacturers of all sizes allows me to see how new technologies and servitization are shaping the business of small and independent companies that make an almost niche product. Every time, this leaves me hopeful that change is being embraced not just by the bold, but also by the passionate.