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Heather Mills Buys Former Walkers Plant

Yellow image with Thin Crisps falling to the table

Heather Mills, the media personality and athlete, has purchased the former Walkers Crisps factory in Peterlee, County Durham.

As the owner of Vbites, a manufacturer of vegan food, she has vowed to bring jobs back to the area.

Loss of Walkers

The Peterlee site was struck a heavy blow when it was announced last year that Walkers were set to relocate their processes. The owner of the company, PepsiCo, cited efficiency and productivity savings as their reason for closing the site. 355 jobs were lost when the factory closed down.

However, all is no longer lost. Heather Mills revealed on the This Morning programme on ITV that she had been planning to open a factory overseas when she heard about the closure. This was something that caused her to shift gears and rethink the way  she went about the process.

“I go back to my home town – and I am about to build a factory in Austria – and I find out my friend has lost her job,” she said. “So I bought the Walkers Crisps factory to bring all the jobs back again.”

She is now urging British supermarkets to “buy British” in order to stop producers from relocating to Europe and further afield. While Brexit may have had a large impact in the food production industry, she feels that the only way to stem this tide is to make sure that large retailers are trying to send the right message. Buying from British manufacturers who are still based in the UK is a good way for them to do that.

Her press office has not yet made any statement on the new factory space, although it is believed that it will be acquired through her Vbites business and used to manufacture the products. There has not been any comment on when the factory will reopen, how many manufacturing jobs will be available, or when they will begin the hiring process. For those details, we will simply have to wait and see.

Meat-free diets up

It seems that the general surge of interest in meat-free diets is continuing. The market intelligence agency Mintel ran a survey which found some interesting results: in the six months up to March 2017, 28% of Brits responding said that they had either reduced or limited their meat consumption. That’s more than a quarter, and represents a huge change.

The trend has been growing slowly for years – since the late 1980s when this interest was first noticed, although in a much smaller minority. The rise of those pursuing meat-free diets, or at least restricting their intake, has allowed the vegan and vegetarian food markets to grow, with more producers entering the sphere each year. In turn, better access to meat substitutes has allowed more consumers to try these diets.

39% of those who reduced their meat consumption pointed to campaigns such as Veganuary, which encourage consumers to eat less meat and reveal the benefits of doing so.

“Despite the ingrained popularity of meat and poultry, a clear trend has emerged of people cutting back and limiting how much of these products they eat,” said Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel.

The influence has been seen far and wide, and is certainly reaching an all-new peak at the moment. The student innovation competition, Ecotrophelia, saw four out of five finalists showcasing vegan food inventions and innovations. The rise in vegan product launches cannot be ignored, and many retailers are now opening their own new ranges as well as preparing full vegan sections in-store. These often include Vbites.