French crisp maker Sibell boosts production capacity after fire

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Crisps, Snack foods

Following a fire last year that ravaged half of its factory, French crisp maker Sibell is set to be fully operational this month, following a €15m clean-up investment that has increased production capacity by 40 per cent.

The third biggest producer of crisps in France, Sibell lost half of its 6.500m2 factory floor to fire in August last year, leaving just two production lines - snacks and prawn crackers - in operation.

For the company that has 12 per cent of the French crisp market and produces about 8000 tonnes of crisps a year, the brutal cease in operations caused by the fire led the firm to call on its competitors to enable Sibell to meet orders on its books.

Even if "more expensive", said Sibell sales director Gilles Benkemoun, that meant Sibell was buying its crisps at a higher price than it was selling, the move to contract competitors to make Sibell-style crisps for the close-down period enabled the firm to keep its customers.

Consumption of crisps has a seasonal flavour, with consumers opting to munch more on these snacks in the summer months than winter. For Sibell, the key motivation was to have the factory up and running before summer 2009.

Production boost

Following the €15m investment, capacity at the snack plant has had a 40 per cent boost, with crisp production potentially able to reach 14,000 tonnes a year. The factory has expanded by 2000m2, and embracing the low-fat trend, includes a new machine to make 'light' crisps.

In terms of employees, the 50-odd staff on stand-by since the fire incident are expected to return to work in the middle of March. They join maintenance staff and employees on the unaffected snack production lines currently working.

Earlier this month the company, based in Aubagne, announced it had signed an agreement with French retailer Casino. Through the national retailer, the deal marks the proliferation of Sibell crisps across the entire French territory.

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