BAXTERS, the soup and sauce maker, will create up to 125 jobs at its Fochabers head office this year when it moves production from its newly acquired Fray Bentos pie business.
Chairman Audrey Baxter told The Scotsman that she hopes to have all the equipment moved from the existing factory in Lincolnshire to Moray and have production up and running again by November.
Fray Bentos, which was sold to Baxters last November by Branston pickle maker Princes, is currently producing extra pies so that stocks don’t run out during the move north of the Border.
The company remains on the acquisition trial even after swallowing the pie business, which could add some £30 million to its current £120m sales.
Baxter said: “Fray Bentos is a lovely addition to our business. It’s completely different but an iconic brand and one that fits very well with our business.
“Moving the equipment is a complex move. We’ll also be adding to our sales and marketing operation in Glasgow, although I can’t put a number on that just yet.”
Baxters’ UK business currently has about 1,000 staff spread across Fochabers, Glasgow and other sites.
Shifting the Fray Bentos jobs to Moray will come as a boost for the local economy, which was dealt a blow last year with the closure of the air base at RAF Kinloss, near Forres.
News of Fray Bentos’ move north came as Baxters released its financial results ahead of the company filing accounts at Companies House at the end of the month.
Pre-tax profits rose by 6 per cent to £7.1m in the year to 28 May despite turnover dipping by 2 per cent to £125.8m. Revenues fell in the UK but Baxter said her overseas operations posted “a healthy double-digit rise in sales”.
Demand was especially strong in Australia, Canada and the United States, following the acquisition of a number of overseas businesses in recent years.
Baxter said the volume of soup and other products being produced in the factory had continued to increase, with more efficient production processes leading to the rise in profits.
But Baxter – who was last year appointed as a non-executive director of the five big banks’ Business Growth Fund – warned that the squeeze on consumer spending had made the home market much tougher.
She predicted that the current economic conditions would not improve for at least two years and said the company was mounting “buy two get one free” offers and other discounts to carrying on winning business.
Although the company is still growing in its current financial year, Baxter said that trading had been “extremely tough”.
Baxters traces its roots back to 1868, when George Baxter borrowed £100 from his family to open a grocers shop in Fochabers, where his wife, Margaret, made jams.
Their daughter-in-law, Ethel, added soups to the range in 1929, starting with the now famous royal game flavour.