‘Lettuce celebrate’ – Willowbrook supply from Spain back to full strength
John McCann MBE
It was one of the worst vegetable crisis to hit the UK and the biggest setback ever experienced at Willowbrook Foods but at the time of print UG discovered that one of the UK’s most successful salad companies was back to operating at 100 per cent supply.
Unusual weather conditions in Spain and other southern continental locations late last year and at the beginning of 2017 saw supply of lettuce, aubergines, courgettes and broccoli drop severely with some UK multiples rationing sales of the latter produce. Willowbrook, which had a sales turnover of £22 million last year, had its crops hit badly when 80 per cent of the salad crops produced in Murcia were deemed unusable. And the worst snow in decades hit the company’s other suppliers in Italy but in welcome news for the retail and food service sectors, Ireland’s largest bagged salad processor, Willowbrook Foods, has stated that its supply to customers is back to 100 per cent, with Spanish grower issues having come to an end.
Willowbrook Foods Managing Director John McCann MBE confirmed that the situation has vastly improved and supply to Willowbrook Foods’ customer base is back to full strength. The founder of Willowbrook, who currently employs around 250 people across a food innovation centre as well as two processing plants in Killinchy and Newtownards, took a proactive approach to the situation, spending time in the Murcia region of Spain to work hand in hand with growers in search of a solution. “We are delighted to report that our supply levels are back to normal,” said John. “The devastation of the floods in Spain was like nothing we have ever witnessed before. Climate problems began with severe drought and shortage of irrigation water in the Autumn, which caused plants to die.
Heavy, continual rain following this, led to floods. “It was important for me to be on the ground in Spain regularly, alongside our Head of Procurement, so we could work with grower partners and, importantly, keep our customers up to date on the ever-evolving situation. “Thankfully, we are now back to 100% supply, with temperatures having increased and the climate having stabilised. We don’t foresee any further issues at the current time and are thrilled to be able to reassure our customers of this,” John said. Swift’s, Fermanagh