Manor Farm Ducklings

Spreading its wings

After a few turbulent years, MFD is looking forward to capitalising on growth potential

Within the last 50 years, Manor Farm Ducklings (MFD Foods Limited) has grown from a small family run business to the second largest duck producer in the UK. Although the company has seen turbulent times, it is returning to form – large contract awards from major UK retailers and expansion into new markets has seen MFD enjoy renewed growth and increasing success.

“We have a simple focus on quality, which has seen us gain an excellent pedigree and reputation in our sector,” says Kris Wade, sales and marketing manager, when asked about what sets MFD apart from the rest.

Consequently, MFD has an impressive list of customers and a good product range: “We supply many of the UK’s leading retailers and can count the likes of Morrison and Asda amongst our key clientele,” explains Kris. “In fact – with regards to both of these retailers – we are their sole duck supplier. Our biggest market remains the Chinese wholesale market, however, tough market conditions are seeing us take stock and look more closely at the opportunities open to us in the retail sector. I believe there are ample opportunities for high quality duck products in the UK, particularly amongst leading retailers, so we will look to exploit those in the coming years.”

Kris continues: “We have three levels of products: standard, freedom foods and now a freedom foods free-range product. The free- range product is a very new evelopment – this has only happened in the past few weeks. We are now the only UK producer to be endorsed by the RSPCA for freedom foods free-range production. This product is being launched on November 6th 2006 with Morrison.

“We hold animal welfare very dear to our hearts,” he adds. “The animal husbandry we practice here really sets the standard for the whole industry, which is something we are proud of. The finished product is extremely lean and tender as a consequence of the care and attention we take in the rearing process.”

At the beginning of 2006, MFD joined forces with Bangkok Ranch – one of the world’s largest suppliers of Peking Ducks. This is an exciting development for MFD and Kris was happy to tell us more about it: “Both myself and our managing director previously worked for Bangkok Ranch and when we joined we brought the European office of Bangkok Ranch into MFD. The Bangkok Ranch brand, Dalee, is recognised as being one of the highest quality brands in the cooked arena across Europe.”

He continues: “If you look at the duck sector there are two main areas of growth: firstly, there is growth in the market for niche premium products, where it is all about having a product that is second to none in terms of quality and welfare. That growth is pretty much being led by the British retail sector. Secondly, there is a big explosion in the added value, cooked duck market, so our partnership with Bangkok Ranch puts us in good stead to make sure that we lead that market. I think there will be huge growth in this new venture with Bangkok Ranch and we look forward to sharing the success as this market develops.”

Always looking to improve, modernisation is a concept close to the heart of all at MFD. Indeed, there is a strong focus on new products and product development to tailor for changing trends in the market: “Research and development is vitally important to us as a company, just as it is for all other manufacturers who create products for niche markets,” says Kris. “We utilise an in-house team dedicated to R&D and like, where possible, to get our suppliers and customers involved in the development process.

“It is essential that we don’t stand still and we are active in R&D. We continually develop new ideas and have a constant stream of innovation. Whether these ideas come to fruition depends on the market and the needs of the consumer – after all, there is little point in creating a product that doesn’t sell; that’s not good business.”

Looking to the future, Kris believes the company will continue to grow: “One guarantee here at MFD is that we never sacrifice quality. In such a tough trading environment it is often tempting to cut corners but we refuse to because it is our quality that will ultimately give us a competitive advantage.

“There is a growing market for our products, which reflects changing attitudes to what we eat. The British consumer is now much more interested in how food is produced in terms of welfare, quality of ingredients and nutritional value. The future looks extremely positive.” concludes Kris