Avara Foods has invested £4 million in cutting-edge technology to deliver its 2022 BBQ range, at its Hereford and Telford processing plants.
The company said new products can now be produced with fewer, higher skilled people, less packaging and are easier for consumers to prepare and cook.
The automated lines pack a range of BBQ products, including dark meat and flavoured options, directly into a pouch. The new process, which features in-pouch marination, removes much of the manual process in production, increasing productivity and efficiency while reducing plastic use by more than 60%.
The automation reduces Avara’s reliance on temporary labour at a time when the market is as tight as ever.
Andrew Brodie, people director at Avara, said: “In previous years servicing volatile BBQ demand has meant a strong reliance on seasonal and temporary labour.
“We know seasonal workers are in short supply, but this latest round of automation means we can manage people numbers through our normal local recruitment activities while ensuring a consistent supply of BBQ products to our retail customers. Now we just need the British weather to come to the party.”
The automation also means more skilled roles, creating opportunities for development and progression.
“Replacing repetitive tasks with automated processes doesn’t remove the need for people”, added Mr Brodie. “The difference is that we need fewer, but more highly skilled people to keep that automation running smoothly, and we can recruit them from our local communities. It’s a completely different role and one that’s much more attractive to people who are looking for a career, rather than a job.”
Avara employees aren’t the only winners from this investment. The new products help Avara meet its environmental targets too.
Emily Phelps, the company’s sustainability lead, said the pouches use more than 60% less plastic than traditional poultry packaging, contributing to Avara’s science-based targets for carbon footprint reduction and Plastic Pact promises, which include ambitious targets for plastic use.
Ms Phelps said: “Reducing the amount of plastic we use is a key benefit of these new products, building on the improvements we have already made in whole bird and portion packaging.
“Our insight consistently tells us that consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their food choices.”
The new BBQ production lines are the latest in a series of recent investments that demonstrate Avara’s commitment to modern food production, and closely follows a new £4.7m processing plant, which opened in Wednesbury in February.