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Stratford-upon-Avon Foods meeting the challenge of the 1990's.

Stratford-upon-Avon Foods Meeting the Challenge of the 1990's

Investment totalling more than 4m [pounds] in the last three years has made Stratford-upon-Avon Foods one of the most up-to-date canneries in Europe. It has also contributed to their recent success in becoming the first company in Europe to receive BS5750 certification for the processing of fruit and vegetables. New plant now in operation includes a crateless retort system, a new can store, a new cold store and the latest labelling equipment.

Many of the stationary retorts that were formerly used have now been replaced by the Odenberg system which has the capacity to sterilize 7lb cans at rates up to 80 a minute. In essence, it consists of a number of retort vessels mounted on top of a water-filled channel.

Cans are loaded into the top of a retort and the presence of water within cushions the impact of cans as they free-fall into the vessel. Once a retort vessel is full, the top hatch is sealed and water is displaced from the vessel by the introduction of steam; the cans are cooked and sterilized in this steam. As the lower hatch is below water level in the channel, cans discharging from the retort vessel are replaced by an equal volume of water entering the vessel from the channel - this leaves the vessel ready to receive the next batch of cans.

The water-filled channel cools the cans and moves them along to a Hydroliner that arranges them in lines before transport to the next station. A conveyor moves them to the four Krones labellers. As their production director Mr Butch Batchelor says: `This system gives all the advantages of an automatic continuous steriliser whilst retaining the benefits of reduced product loss risk and batch identification given by conventional retorts'.

This new processing equipment has been complemented by dramatic improvements to the storage facilities on the site. A repository for 2500 pallets of empty cans has been built, together with a cold store to preserve 600 tonnes of frozen raw materials for the production of pie fillings and Yogfruit.

An additional 6000 sq ft warehouse for finished goods has been purchased and, to maximise the amount of storage space, it has been converted into a 5000 pallet, narrow aisle, racked layout. Stock is held on four levels of racking, and its movement is monitored by computer.

A new preparation room, with special lighting and inspection belts, has been completed for checking incoming frozen fruit, which is tempered overnight before cooking in Giusti jacketed vessels and cooling in Alfa Laval Contherm units. Other equipment being installed shortly includes an extra Doboy shrinkwrapper, a Video Jet ink jet printer for numbering batches of processed cans, a Hitech Electrocontrols checkweigher to aid quality control procedures and two Bead pocket elevators incorporating integral metal detectors from A M Lock.

The purpose of all these developments is to cope with the increasing volume of production and to keep the company competitive in the next decade.

Five hundred different items, including canned baked beans, aseptically packed Yogfruit and plastics membrane-sealed containers of fruit pie filling are produced at the factory for customers such as Birds Eye Walls, the National Health Service and Kentucky Fried Chicken. In fact, around 7 percent of the total UK consumption of baked beans is of product that originates from Stratford.

The British Standard

Stratford-upon-Avon Foods have become the first in their class (processing of fruit and vegetables) to receive registration under BS5750 (part 2). This is obviously a major achievement and the assessment of the factory by staff from the British Standards Institution and two independent assessors took three days. They closely scrutinized all the company's operations from the purchase of raw materials to warehousing. In between they checked manufacturing, handling, quality control, personnel and staff training!

To meet the British Standard, every procedure in the company must be controlled and documented at every stage. If these procedures are strictly adhered to, total quality can be achieved. The BSI advocates a `get it right first time' approach to manufacturing.

The idea of applying for registration was first raised after managing director Mr Bruce Idiens and technical services manager Mr Basil Barnett attended a seminar held by Birds Eye Walls in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry.

At the seminar Birds Eye stated its intention to restrict its suppliers and to concentrate on those with a BS registration. This, coupled with the realisation that registration would improve Stratford's chances of successfully competing against European companies after 1992, convinced the Board that it was an essential aim.

`We are already experiencing both the opportunities from potential customers and the threats from competitors that will become an even greater part of everyday life by 1992' says Mr John Lemon, their marketing director.' As a member of the Albert Fisher Group, we have strong connections all over the world, and want to be in a position to take advantage of them. The European and international acceptance of our proven quality standards will stand us in very good stead.'

The company was given an indication of just how much importance is attached to these standards by the rest of the world when the Indian Minister for Food Processing Industries visited them recently. He was so impressed by what he saw that he made it plain to the Overseas Trade Division of the Department of Trade and Industry that what he had seen at Stratford was the type of operation he wanted to see in India. In fact, he admitted that his concept of the ability of British Industry had gone up considerably following his visit to Stratford.

Obviously, the 4m [pounds] investment and a lot of hard work have been worthwhile. Above all else, the company has benefitted by working together as a team to achieve BS5750.

Mr Basil Barnett, who has responsibility for the implementation of the Total Quality System noted, `Everyone has been involved in getting BS5750. The feeling of achievement is tremendous and there is a real sense of teamwork throughout the organisation.

Mr Idiens is justifiably proud of his company's achievement. Commenting on its registration, he says, `This is one of the most significant achievements in the history of Stratford-upon-Avon Foods.'

PHOTO : A view of the Odenberg crateless retort system

PHOTO : A view inside the fully racked finished goods store

PHOTO : Giusti jacketed vessels

PHOTO : Looking over a jam boiler down part of the factory
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Food Trade Review
Article Type:company profile
Date:Aug 1, 1989
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