Nicky Walker, the firm’s production director, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that in addition to the 30 permanent new roles in production, a further 30 seasonal jobs would be created. Seasonal workers would be hired during the firm’s peak production period between May and December, he added.
The new facility will ease over-stretched production at Walkers’ other sites in Aberlour and Elgin. “We intend that some tart and meringue production will be transferred to the new facility, potentially freeing up space in the existing factories to increase production of traditional shortbread and biscuit ranges as well as new products,” said Walker.
Subject to planning permission, the new factory – to be built for an undisclosed sum – will open early next year. No estimates of the new plant’s production capacity were available.
Meet rising demand
Walker said the investment was needed to meet rising demand. “In 2010 and 2011, despite a difficult economic climate, turnover increased significantly to over £100M,” he said. "The directors are confident that the strong demand for Walkers products will continue through 2013 and beyond.”
A spokeswoman from data monitor Mintel said that a shift towards healthier eating helped Walkers Shortbread grow sales through its Weight Watchers brand.
She also confirmed that UK sales of sweet biscuits soared by 20.3% between 2005 and 2010.
The value of the biscuits, cookies and crackers market will grow by 3% year-on-year to exceed £2bn by next year, according to Mintel.
No other room
Meanwhile, Walkers Shortbread said it was vital that its planning application was successful because there was no other room for expansion at the Fisherton site. The site was already home to three other factories owned by the firm.
The planning application involves modifying the Grade B listed farmhouse and other related buildings on the site. The later will become the entrance, reception and staff facilities for the new factory while the former farmhouse put to a yet to be decided commercial use.
A spokesman for Moray Council confirmed receipt of the application last month. But he declined to comment on it until a final decision was made.
Walkers Shortbread’s workforce totals about 1,100 permanent workers, which with temporary labour rises to about 1,600 at peak times.