PIP 2022/23 participants meet industry experts

27 February 2023

Henry Gibbs

Henry Gibbs

NFU Poultry Industry Programme 2022/23, Free range egg producer, West Midlands

NFU Poultry Industry 2022/23 participants outside Waitrose HQ in Berkshire.

2022/23 PIP (Poultry Industry Programme) participant Henry Gibbs is a free range egg producer from Shropshire selling his eggs to a packer, on-farm through a vending machine and directly to a number of local businesses. Henry writes about the PIP visit to Waitrose headquarters.  

In January the PIP (Poultry Industry Programme) headed to Waitrose headquarters in Berkshire for a busy visit.

We started off in the conference centre with an inspiring presentation from Jake Pickering, the Senior Agricultural Manager, with an introduction to Waitrose’s background and its business model; supporting British agriculture to its heart.

He highlighted how proud they are of their British suppliers and how they have built strong relationships with them, founded on trust, fairness and a passion for good food.

Commitment to high welfare standards

Next was an informative talk from Will Nixon from Stonegate, Waitrose’s sole egg supplier, who gave us a presentation on their close relationship with Waitrose and their commitment to continue providing high welfare eggs, emphasising their move to only producing free range and organic eggs.

Stonegate have made a significant investment into their site in Wiltshire, tripling capacity and employing 320 people.

Will outlined their passion for leading welfare standards, producing eggs that are 100% RSPCA assured. They house over one million hens with intact beaks and provide financial incentives for feather cover.

Their strive for excellence has led them to achieve a Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) Tier 1 and multiple Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) good egg awards.

Arron McKenna, Head of Moy Park’s Customer Support, joined us virtually and was proud of their strong 30-year relationship, supplying 100% of chicken and affiliate products to the supermarket.

They operate a unique vertically-integrated supply chain improving sustainability, biosecurity, welfare, traceability and efficiency.

This has proved successful as they are the largest UK producer of organic and free range chicken.

Sharing retail insights

It was really interesting to have an insight into the retailer’s perspective on current industry issues. Inevitably, they are facing similar issues to the agricultural sector, such as increased input costs.

Jake touched on the recent egg shortage and how Waitrose was one of the few retailers to avoid egg supply issues, explaining that this was due to their close working, and long-standing relationship with their supplier Stonegate. However, he did express that the increase in demand did put pressure on supplies.

This was followed by Oliver Chadwyck-Healey, a buyer for Waitrose, presenting an overview on ‘Buying and Category Management,’ which discussed business performance and their buying structure.

One of his key focuses was responsible sourcing, encouraging suppliers to provide the best possible conditions for workers, protect the natural environment and to promote high welfare standards. This is proven by their commitment to only retailing free range and organic eggs and chicken, alongside all own brand packaging being reusable, widely recyclable or compostable by 2023.

Huge operation

Finally, we had a tour of the distribution centre and it was a good job we had a tour guide – what a big operation!

The depot consisted of four main buildings, including frozen, chilled, ambient and fruit and veg. It all seemed relaxed and very organised considering in 2021, 76 million cases were received, picked, and shipped across over 10 million miles around the UK.

The tour really demonstrated a successful and well-operated business. Given the competitive landscape of the retail industry, they emphasised the necessity for a proactive rather than a reactive approach to business.

Overall, it was a fantastic opportunity to get an insight into the retail end of the supply chain.

Their long-standing relationships with suppliers was impressive, how committed they are to supporting their sustainable suppliers, and have invested in their supply base to secure premium quality for consumers.

This clearly highlights the need for prioritising consumer confidence within the retail space and proves how important it is to always be at the top of your game and constantly innovating.

Thanks must go to the NFU and ABN on behalf of the PIP cohort for the continued growth of the programme, giving us the opportunity to meet industry leaders and like-minded people.

Watch a vlog about the day

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