Food for Thought

Next time you buy a pound of pork sausages from the butcher, think for a minute about that small bag in your hand...

Then try thinking of the same bag multiplied 31 million times!

The pile that you then visualise is the actual amount of pork which the state-of-the art Blakeman’s sausage and meat production facility in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, gets through each year for the variety of sausage meat products it produces.

For almost half a century the company – which is this year celebrating its 65th anniversary – has been working with the same suppliers, buying the same high quality cuts of pork.

Around 80 per cent of the meat is sourced within the European Union with the remainder coming from producers in the United Kingdom.

James Morris, Head of Business Development at Blakeman’s, said: “By working with that same core of suppliers over decades and decades we have been able to build extremely close working relationships which mean we can count on quality and consistency – two ingredients which are crucial in maintaining our leading position in the market place.”

Pork is renowned as one of the most versatile types of meat - economical, tender if cooked correctly and oozing with flavour.

It is often thought of as a particularly fatty type of meat but modern breeding, rearing and butchering has today made pork a low-fat, healthy meat. Furthermore, the fat it does contain is less saturated than that found in other meats.

Pork is also high in protein, an excellent source of iron, zinc and B vitamins and tastes wonderful too.

Its versatility is shown in the range that Blakeman’s produce at their 57,000 sq. foot. cooking and cold storage facility which is widely regarded as one of the most efficient in Europe and is capable of producing 500 tonnes of material every week!

The business has used pork to create and produce an ever-expanding list of spectacular products for clients, ranging from a pork and chorizo meatball to a gastro sausage as well as a collection of reduced fat, reduced sodium, sugar free and gluten free products.

Among recent additions to the Blakeman’s product portfolio is the Gastro Range, a selection of top quality pre-cooked and individually quick frozen products, made using only UK pork.

By working alongside customers, the product development team has created the perfectly seasoned pork sausage and a pork sausage infused with aromatic herbs.

Both contain 80 per cent pork and are in a natural skin. There is also a pork, onion and sage stuffing ball, with a hint of Sicilian cloudy lemon juice.

The final addition to the range is the incredibly versatile steam cooked, gourmet hot dog, containing 85 per cent pork. This range is a caterer’s delight and is ideal for fast moving gastro pubs, hotels and quick turnaround catering establishments.

Bespoke recipes are formulated in the development kitchen where Blakeman’s product development team work with clients to create products to match their specifications exactly.

And latest figures suggest consumers are getting to like getting pork on their fork.

During the 12 weeks to 3 December 2017, UK pork sales increased in volume and value.

Despite prices for pork products rising by 7.4 per cent during the period, fresh pork sales were up 2.7 per cent year-on-year in volume and by 9.7 per cent in value terms.

So, whilst the growth in the popularity of pork is welcome news for companies such as Blakeman’s, getting the product range right and then ensuring the machinery is in place to deliver the product is equally important.

In 1988 Blakeman’s moved to showpiece premises in Longport. Stoke-on-Trent and at this £650,000 self-contained, purpose built factory, the company had a clinically hygienic open plan working area of 40,000 square feet.

The family spent £3.2 million in 2000 opening at Millennium Way, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and the new facility allowed Blakeman’s to enter the cooked market with the capability of producing deep fried, oven cooked and steamed products and accommodate ever-increasing orders from its customers. Production doubled.

In 2006 the Millennium Way site was expanded by 18,000 square foot, providing additional cold storage at a cost of £1.5 million.

In 2008 the cold store was closed and converted into the current manufacturing site, adding a further £4.4 million investment. The conversion of the site saw the Longport factory move to Millennium Way, the instillation of state of the art Spiral freezers and a large office expansion. The new industry-leading design of the factory is one of the most advanced in Europe, with the lowest carbon footprint for a development of its type.

Millions of pounds more are set to be invested into the business this summer with exciting expansion proposals currently being drawn up to ensure the company stays ahead of its rivals and keeps ensuring pork stays on the menu for millions of Britons each year.

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