Mondelez International, the snacks subsidiary of food manufacturing giant Kraft, began making the world’s favourite biscuit, Oreo, in Sheffield in May. James Pozzi talks to Ian Dearn about the £6m investment in his Cadbury-Trebor facility and plans to grow the £22m UK Oreo market.
TM: What message does this investment give to the global Mondelez business and the British biscuit industry?
There’s an external message, which is a great investment news story for the UK and Sheffield, which shows a vote of confidence in the business environment and the local workforce. Internally it’s a great celebration of our people. I’ve worked in a number of different sites but here we have a unique passion and energy. The significant investment in the site is a real endorsement of that.
TM: The British biscuit and cake sector is worth £3.6bn and is growing, attracting investment from many global players. How does Modelez plan to compete and grow through its latest investment in the UK?
We have great growth in biscuits in Europe and exceptional growth within the UK. The two primary drivers of that growth are Oreo, and Belvita, which will be manufactured here from August. Oreo globally is the biggest biscuit brand with £1.3bn sales worldwide. Since introducing it here in 2008, we’ve now got to £22m sales and it has grown 16% year-on-year, which is quite a remarkable level of growth. We’re confident this has been a sound business decision.
TM: How many jobs have been created thanks to the investment in the new Oreo line?
We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve been able to utilise the culture that we have with skills and engagement. We were able to secure volunteers from our candy operations to work on the new line – Maynards Wine Gums, Bassett’s Allsorts and Trebor Mints. Through doing that, were able to create 70 jobs and fill them with existing staff – a great labour management and efficiency achievement. Employees on the new line have been re-skilled. Anyone from a food manufacturing background would be aware that making mints and jellies involves very different technology to a bakery. We’ve leveraged experience from across Europe to help in re-skilling. The operators who have moved across have worked in our Portuguese and Spanish factories to learn how to make biscuits in a real time, live environment. They also spent a good amount of time at our research development centre in Paris. The training started in the early part of December 2012 and we’ve been building skills since then.
TM: What is the projected output for the Oreo line and how automated is the production process?
Demand is so great that we need to produce as many as possible. The line has the capacity to make 10,000 tonnes of Oreos a year, about 1.2m biscuits per day. We’ve taken a pragmatic approach to automation. In the candy facility, we’ve invested heavily in automation in recent years; multi-million pound investments into areas where we can alleviate manual handling. The reason we took a more pragmatic approach with biscuits is based on trying to get the group to a certain skill level, to allow them to become more familiar with the intrinsic operations of making biscuits. We’ll look at introducing more automation in the future.
TM: Mondelez runs an apprenticeship scheme across the Sheffield site and others in Birmingham and Banbury. How successful has this been?
Since 2011 we’ve significantly increased our intake of apprentices. Currently we have nine for Sheffield with two more joining in September. There are 50 for Mondelez in the UK. Its part of our long term skills planning and something we are pleased to support as we know it’s a critical agenda. The figures may not sound massive but it’s a step change to what other companies are doing. Our approach is to bring them into the system and turn them into long term employees.