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The changing face of the co-pack specialist.

The Changing Face of the Co-Pack Specialist

Co-packing has been a feature of the food processing/supply chain for decades now, particularly for specialised products with individual processing requirements, like seafoods.

One such specialist, Sefton Meadow Seafoods, believes that the '90s may see a new era in the development of this 'service' role in the food industry, with defined advantages over and above the mere 'farming out' of capacity.

In redeveloping its prawn processing operation at Maghull, Sefton Meadow was aware that a much greater co-pack capacity, with much greater unit cost savings, would be one of the advantages to which it could look forward. After more than a decade of concentration on building its brands, it came as a surprise to find just how much interest there is currently for co-packing for retail markets. This is true of its core business of cold water prawns but other seafood products are following the trend.

"Co-packing for customers who supplied retailers was a live business for this company in the '70s," said managing director Geoff Harvey.

"Like so many others, we then turned much of our attention to developing our own brand and co-packing became less of a priority, although we have always done it".

Sefton Meadow's brands, particularly Crusader, did become well established (the company claims it was the first to guarantee a 16oz defrosted weight prawn pack) but they still hold only a limited if well established market share.

When parent company Perkins Foods Plc invested 2 m. [pounds] in the Maghull site, a large part of it for the complete re-equipping of the factory, it rapidly became apparent that Sefton Meadow was in a position to offer a co-packing service as it has never done before.

The latest Ishida and Sandiacre packing line technology has been combined with custom-built glazing equipment to do a specialised job in a way which would not be used intensively enough to make it cost-efficient as an in-house process for many of the company's customers.

"The big difference is the unit cost we can achieve through specialised production using purpose-built lines and methods, offering much better yields to customers. There are many retail market suppliers who cannot handle this kind of work efficiently in-house, and that applies to many other product areas as well as seafoods. Even contacts from years ago came back to us when they learned about the changes, and I am sure many more food industry co-packers are finding ready markets for their services."

Sefton Meadow also believes there is a much greater acceptance of co-packing as a positive and advantageous link in the retail supply chain.

In the past it has sometimes had a slightly clandestine image, suggesting that the retail supplier is in some way acting as a middle-man, or that the processor might not have the professionalism to 'front' his own product.

Perhaps it is a symptom of straitened times that the cost-efficiencies of co-packing, for both supplier and retailer, have brought it more favourable attention but Sefton Meadow believes that the processing standards demanded by market forces and by the law may also have something to do with it.

"There was a time not so long ago when processors suddenly had to drag their quality and hygiene standards up by the bootstraps in order to meet the requirements of the more exacting retailers," said Geoff Harvey.

"The highest standards are now rapidly becoming minimum standards though, and again this places a great strain on the ability of a processor/supplier to provide a wide range of products to the required standard and at an acceptable price. That is when some of the specialised lines have to go 'out of house'".

All of this leads Sefton Meadow to believe that the professional co-pack operation is becoming a vital 'approved' link in the retail food supply chain.

The company is located at Sefton Lane, Maghull, Liverpool, tel: 051-531 8383.

PHOTO : At Maghull the Ishida weigher is seen in its refrigerated room above the packaging line; this ensures complete temperature control for the products

PHOTO : Part of Sefton Meadow's custom-built glazing unit
COPYRIGHT 1990 Food Trade Press Ltd.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sefton Meadow Seafoods
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Sep 1, 1990
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