Sandwich platters drop off menu as industry deals with labor shortages

Sandwich platters and triple packets have dropped the menus of many retailers and cafes as the industry grapples with labor shortages, the UK’s largest sandwich maker has said.

Greencore, which supplies sandwiches, salads and sushi to supermarkets and cafes, weathered the disruption to post revenue of £ 1.3 billion for the year through September 24, up 4.8 % from 2020 but still below pre-pandemic levels.

The Dublin-based convenience food maker, which also makes ready meals, soups and sauces, reported pre-tax profits of £ 27.8million, up from a loss of £ 10.8million in 2020 , when blockages limited demand for take-out food. The figure remains well below the £ 56.4million recorded in 2019.

The return to profit follows a loss of £ 1.8million in the first six months. Patrick Coveney, Managing Director of Greencore, said the company has experienced “a very steady and consistent rebound in volumes and demand since late spring.”

He however highlighted the challenges of the fresh produce supply chain, saying “the system is under pressure for a whole range of reasons” including the effects of the pandemic, immigration policy and overall job levels. vacant. As a result, he said Greencore has agreed to provide many of its customers with fewer menu options.

Labor costs rose 5 percent during the year, reaching single digits in the second half of the year. “We have about the number of people we need,” Coveney said.

The pressures on the system meant consumers saw a “somewhat narrower range” of products, including those that “required complex and highly customized assembly solutions, like triples or alternative formats,” [which] consume a lot of capacity and require a lot, a lot of people to manufacture, ”Coveney said.

Greencore was using automation to solve manpower issues, but, he said, “you can’t activate these automated solutions tonight,” adding “you’re unlikely to find a robotic solution. to carry out the whole process of making sandwiches.

The effects of inflation over the coming year would push up the prices of convenience foods in supermarkets, Coveney added.

Consumers were “concerned but not panicked” by the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, he noted. In a quick customer survey last week, Greencore found that consumer confidence had suffered a “moderate dip”, falling to levels similar to levels recorded in August.

Greencore, which suspended dividend payments in 2020 as it sought to cut costs, will not make a final payment for the year but will restore a return on capital in 2022, Coveney said.

The results come after Greencore announced last week that Coveney would be leaving the company for his other pandemic-hit food business SSP Group. The owner of Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza has been hit hard by the lack of commuters, tourists and shoppers to city centers during the pandemic.

Coveney, who has led Greencore for 14 years, will step down as director and chief executive officer at the end of March 2022 and Gary Kennedy, non-executive chairman, will take a more active role until a new chief is found.

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