Bernard Matthews to create 90 jobs at Great Witchingham

Rob Burnett, Bernard Matthews new Chief Executive.

Rob Burnett, Bernard Matthews new Chief Executive. - Credit: Archant

News that Bernard Matthews is set to create 90 new positions at the company's factory near Dereham has been welcomed - but calls have been made for more employment opportunities to be created in and around the town to meet the area's jobs deficit.

Rob Burnett, the new chief executive of the turkey firm, is embarking on a recruitment drive to meet the demands of its South Site factory in Great Witchingham, which will run at full capacity for the first time in six years after the business secured a number of deals with major retailers.

The contracts have fuelled an optimistic outlook from Mr Burnett who believes 2015 could be the year that Bernard Matthews turns its fortunes around and launches a new range of innovative products.

It comes after the turkey giant posted a £20.3m loss in November 2013 and cut its workforce as it struggled with mounting costs caused by rising feed prices.

News that Mr Burnett is looking to return the company to growth has been seen as a welcome boost for Dereham.

Dereham's mayor Tim Birt said: 'One of the things we have been campaigning for is more employment opportunities. We are in a deficit of jobs in Dereham and I totally welcome the fact that Bernard Matthews is creating new jobs.

'This is a good step forward but it is not enough. We need more investment in Dereham and more jobs to come to the town. We would like to see more jobs for graduates and postgraduates which will really make Dereham thrive.'

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The new jobs created at Bernard Matthews will range from processing positions to butchery and warehouse work. The business currently employs 1,850 people across Norfolk and Suffolk.

'Our objective is to grow, and it is difficult to do that without creating jobs,' Mr Burnett said. 'This is a statement of intent for us, with a clear agenda to grow the company. This business has been built on product innovation. It is essential that we deliver new products in the way that Bernard did. 'There's plenty of that coming around the corner in 2015. Not every idea will work, but we have to have this as part of our strategy in the long term.'

'Our senior team has expanded and we have added some experience and bodies to areas that were underweight,' he added.

'We are now fit for purpose, and its all about the products.'

The undisclosed deals will see the company supplying a mixture of turkey crowns, turkey joints and whole birds, with its South Site running 52 weeks instead of 12 weeks in previous years.

Mr Burnett, who joined the company from frozen food producer Hain Daniels six months ago, said it was difficult to predict how the commodity prices would impact the company in the future.

'I think generally we have seen last year somewhat of calming [when it comes to feed costs]. It is not so erratic as it was. But what we have got to make sure is that we are competitive, more efficient, and that we can offer more attractive products because the commodity prices will be the same for all our competitors.'