Weetabix boss says firm will stay in county

Weetabix CEO Giles Turrell
Weetabix CEO Giles Turrell

The boss of Weetabix has reassured workers and local suppliers there are no plans for the firm to leave the area after an Asian food giant took control of the 80-year-old company.

In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, CEO Giles Turrell said the company had no plans to reduce its 1,200 staff in Burton Latimer, after Chinese firm Bright Food bought a 60 per cent share in the cereal company for £1.2 billion.

And he said the new market of 1.3 billion Chinese citizens the takeover opens up will create opportunities.

Mr Turrell said: “The UK is and will always remain the most important part of the company. We need to take care of it and invest in it.

“This is about the future growth and international growth.

“There will definitely be opportunities in this business as a result of this expansion.”

He said the business, which already supplies 80 markets worldwide, would focus on producing cereal for China and Asia, which have a growing appetite for packaged and convenient healthy foods.

Production at plants in Burton Latimer and Corby is unlikely to increase to supply the breakfast bowls of China as Mr Turrell said it would be uneconomical to transport the cereal across the globe.

Instead the company, which also makes Alpen and Ready brek, would use plants in China to produce cereal for the local market.

But Mr Turrell reassured county farmers Weetabix is committed to sourcing its grain from within 50 miles, harvest permitting.

Mr Turrell, who joined the company last October, said: “This great brand that was launched here in 1932 in Burton Latimer, that sources grain from here, has served generations of families in Great Britain.

“Those same benefits are going to transfer around the world.”

Mr Turrell said he had already met staff and unions representing them to reassure them their jobs are safe.

The takeover is the largest overseas acquisition by a Chinese company in the food and beverage sector.

Lion Capital, the American finance firm which bought the firm in 2004, will keep a 40 per cent share.

Mr Turrell said: “There is a cultural difference and different skills between UK management and Chinese management.

“One of the biggest things we have to overcome is the language.

“They have asked us to continue to run the company. The biggest thing they offer is their presence in Asia and China and the chance to grow our business there.”