Dundee based food firm, Highland Game, has announced an investment of over £150,000 implementing a set of stringent measures following the outbreak of COVID-19 ensuring safety and security for all employees.
The UK's largest producer of venison employing over 80 people, the company has also created a minimum of 15 new jobs as new shift patterns and social distancing measures have resulted in fewer people able to work simultaneously.
Euan Ross, Sales & Marketing Manager, Highland Game, said: “Due to COVID-19, and the shut-down of hotels and restaurants across Europe, we have lost a large tranche of our market. Our focus is now entirely on retail where we continue to see year on year growth in excess of 15%. Our predictions in both food service and export have been slashed to 25% of what we reported last season. Had it not been for the dedication, inventiveness and determination of our staff, many of whom have come to work in the factory, when so many around them were staying at home, we would not have been able to keep the business operating. We have been overwhelmed by their loyalty and dedication.”
Euan Ross said: “Under the government restrictions set out by COVID-19, the cost of doing business has skyrocketed and while our overall sales will be impacted, we made the decision to reduce our efficiency as safeguarding our staff and retail business is our priority. Throughout the crisis, we have continued to supply without interruption meaning that all our efforts to grow with our retail partners continue as planned. Taking on an increased number of staff allows us to meet social distancing and new shift pattern requirements, ultimately increasing the number of hours required for less capacity.”
Structural layout changes in the plant including an increase in production lines, new machinery and automation, new procedures and staff training as well as additional PPE have been introduced alongside additional clean down procedures.
Dr Jo Dalrymple, Operations and Technical Manager, Highland Game, said: “At the onset of the pandemic, even before lockdown was announced we had already implemented a set of rigorous measures ensuring the health and safety of our frontline staff. They have been a credit to our business, continuing to work throughout the last few months taking on the challenge of working in a new environment and retraining as we implemented new safety and procedures. Many have also been upskilled as we operate with fewer people on each shift.”
The sudden loss of Highland Games’ wholesale, food service and export markets required careful management of their carcass balance and output and with limited success in crossover to retail, all staff are now available and on-site to tackle the new normal.
Kirsty Macdonald, Technical and Procurement Manager, Highland Game, said: “We’ve been working closely with all our supply chain partners throughout Scotland and the North of England, creating a streamlined, better planned and more efficiently delivered deer supply and processing supply chain. With retail as the key avenue for supply it is our aim to continue to boost consumer confidence, whilst we wait for the food service and catering industry to bounce back, resulting in more natively sourced venison being sold and consumed in Scotland and throughout the UK.”
Euan Ross added: “As of mid-July, we are increasing our sales force capacity in England. As part of our drive to reset our business, we are looking long-term with the appointment of a specialist sales manager to extend our reach and service, driving greater appeal for venison in non-retail channels such as food service & wholesale, third party manufacturing and online partners.”
With a five strong quality control department, the company who counts ASDA, Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose among its customers, is well prepared to take on board any test and trace requirements.
Euan Ross said: “We’ve always been proud of the provenance of our venison and the journey it takes from hill to plate, including the many quality assured processes and controls undertaken in supply chain, making it one of Scotland’s great natural products. We know exactly who has been involved every step of the way and that has stood us in excellent stead and will continue to do so as we charter a future for wild venison.”
For more information about Highland Game please visit www.highlandgame.com
Highland Game, was founded in 1997, by Danish entrepreneur Christian Nissen, when he acquired the production unit from a poultry & game dealer in Dundee. Christian had a clear vision from the very start to achieve wider popularity of venison by making it available through mainstream retail channels.