Issue Iss2 2008
A tasty treat
By creating a complete eating experience for its customers, Linden Foods remains at the forefront of the industry
Investment has been key to the success of Linden Foods over recent years, with a significant amount of time and money being spent on product development, the improvement of its manufacturing facilities and an increased focus on environmental issues. As a result, the company’s core business, retail packing, has expanded dramatically over the past 12 months. Today, Linden Foods has gained significant extra business with some of the biggest names on the premium food market, including Marks and Spencer and Dunnes Stores in Ireland.
Colin Freeman, sales manager for the organisation explains: “As a result of the work we have been doing with these companies, we won a very prestigious award from the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association for Best New Products by a Large Company. These products include, for Marks and Spencer, Lamb Noisettes, and for Dunnes, a meatball dish with a variety of different sauces, such as tomato and barbecue. Consequently, this has generated a significant amount of interest in our business from a number of new sources.”
This success has come despite an extremely difficult trading environment. Colin continues: “The market has been quite challenging over the last 12 months with the price of raw materials increasing by around 25 per cent. To overcome this issue, we have been developing products, which provide a complete eating experience for our consumers. Through investment into our Dungannon facility, we now have the equipment to prepare beef and lamb joints, which means the customers can take the product home and within 50 minutes have a cooked roast joint with a flavoured sauce accompaniment. We are also producing fixed weight and fixed price packs so the consumer can clearly identify what they are paying for.”
He adds: “These products are a result of our hardworking product development team, which has its own chef. We are also focusing on producing convenience solutions that have something different for the consumer. These products offer meat solutions with intricate accompaniments, such as sauces and recipe ideas, and as a result they provide the same eating experience as you would find in a restaurant.”
Linden Foods is a beef and sheep processor located in Dungannon, Northern Ireland. Servicing a range of markets, the company has a strong presence in the UK high street, enjoying close, established relationships with most of the large retail businesses, and many of its dedicated convenience food manufacturers. Linden Foods is committed to delivering the very best value in both its product and service offerings. Furthermore, a constant drive to innovate through product development helps the business create a diverse range of beef and lamb cuts to meet very precise customer requirements.
In addition to product development, Linden Foods has invested significantly in the development of a new company called Lenergy. This waste energy plant is at the Dungannon site and takes all the bi-products that are not sold and turns them into alternative products such as fertiliser. Colin explains: “Operations at this plant are going extremely well and as a result we are getting a lot of visitors from people in Europe who are interested in using this model. Although it was a very costly exercise to begin with, the development of Lenergy now has significant benefits, for example, we no longer have to pay for the removal of waste.”
Another environmental issue the company is focusing on is green packaging. Colin continues: “We are currently looking at different options for the use of greener materials. For example, we have invested heavily in our machinery to allow us to use Dar-Fresh packaging, which uses less material. This solution vacuum seals products and then the meat matures in the pack. There is still a lot of work to be done in this area but we believe we are now in a position to develop this further and during 2008 some significant improvements will be made.”
Linden Foods has a total of five sites across Ireland – these are slaughter and packing sites for beef and lamb. Investment into these facilities has been the key to the success of the company, and now the business is looking to extend its network even further. Colin explains: “We have recently been given approval by our parent company, the Fane Valley Group, to create a business plan for a new facility specifically for retail packaging. This new greenfield site will hold a state-of-the-art facility, which will hopefully help us to attract even more new business.”
Linden Foods has also recently bought two new facilities in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which will help the business provide additional raw materials to its customers. The company has been able to achieve such growth and investment through its continuous focus on providing high quality products. Linden Foods prides itself on its premium solutions, which is evident through the clients the company deals with. For example, Marks and Spencer is a high-end retailer, therefore Linden’s products have to meet its strict standards.
Looking to the future, Colin concludes: “The main vision for the business over the next few years is to maintain the quality standards we have become known for. There is a different generation of people growing up now with different consumer lifestyles, therefore we have to constantly develop our product range to satisfy these changing needs.”