Westland’s factory at Driffield in Yorkshire manufactures just over 40,000 tonnes of bird food for its brands Bucktons, Nature's Feast and Peckish every year, making it the largest producer with purpose built facilities in the UK.
The factory has also earned A-grade accreditation for its quality and traceability of ingredients, ensuring that products on garden centre shelves are top notch.
Westland is rightly proud of the Driffield site and of its branded products, and is keen to share its vision for this lucrative sector of the market. Pet Trade Xtra was given a tour round the factory.
What’s the difference between your three main brands – Peckish, Nature’s Feast and Bucktons?
Each brand has its own identify and targets a different consumer group.
- Bucktons is a specialist brand, exclusive to the pet trade. It offers a range of products, including wild bird, aviary and feeding mixes for racing pigeons. Bucktons is the principle sponsor of many key events in the racing calendar, including the annual British Homing World Show of the Year.
- Nature’s Feast emphasises the natural message and is a more specialist brand for those feeding wild birds. It promotes the benefits to the environment of feeding the birds and, where possible, uses ingredients from farmers signed up to the Environmental Stewardship (ES) Scheme.
- Peckish targets newcomers to feeding wild birds. It’s positioned at the fun, innovative end and encourages consumers to have a go at feeding wild birds. Because of this, it’s available in all channels where there could be newcomers, including grocery, garden centres, pet shops and DIY outlets.
The Driffield factory has earned British Retail Consortium A-grade accreditation for its quality and traceability of ingredients, how hard is it to reach this standard?
It took over 3 years’ preparation and the introduction of a dedicated Quality Assurance team to implement new standards and auditing procedures before we had our first BRC Audit in 2010.
The annual BRC Audit itself covers 2 days and checks over 300 manufacturing criteria, including processes, hygiene and safety and full traceability of ingredients.
Raw materials are sourced from over 50 countries with many crops checked when still in the field, as the company works closely with farmers and employs an agronomist to carry out this work. Raw material is checked again on delivery for purity and moisture content, and continues throughout the entire production line.
We’ve just completed our 6th successive year achieving A Grade certification.
What does the accreditation actually mean to the consumer?
Consumers can be sure all our products are 100% as described on pack and are safe. We follow best practice in everything allowing traceability of raw materials through to finished product on the shelf. It means both consumers and retailers can purchase with absolute confidence that they have a safe and quality product.
All the ingredients used in your new products have immune-boosting properties. Does this help to set your products apart from other brands on the market?
Yes, we strive to add value to all these products by providing market leading innovation.
We invest a significant amount of money into nutrition, employing our own in-house Nutritional Technologist, Lorron Bright. Our aim is for wild birds, aviary birds and pigeons to be happy and healthy for longer.
These products are assessed by an external specialist vet (Matt Brash) to ensure they live up to their claims and offer the very best nutritional benefits.
Our 3 immune boosting ingredients are:
- Quorum Sensing Technology – a scientifically-recognised pellet unique to Bucktons which supports healthy immune systems, stimulates natural enzymes and prevents bacteria replicating.
- Spiralife – a unique blend of vitamins and antioxidants to enhance plumage and boost health in aviary birds. Again, unique to Bucktons.
- Calvita – a specially developed supplement that gives wild birds the vitamins and minerals they need for healthy bone, beak and feather growth and healthy egg production. Unique to Peckish.
Is it correct that your new fat ball manufacturing equipment means that you can produce all products in house and that you’re the only bird food manufacturer to do this?
We now have the machinery to produce all suet cakes, suet pellets and fat balls in-house. This machinery complements our already advanced cleaning, blending and packaging production facilities of seed blends.
The new fat ball lines represents a million pound investment by us, and we now have the capacity to make over 200,000 fat balls a day. Westland is a company which has grown significantly since its launch 25 years ago. It has done this through continually investing in its infrastructure and innovation of its products.
The new fat ball lines mean that we have complete control over the quality of ingredients used in our fat balls. We use high quality ingredients such as beef tallow and locally sourced wheat.
Britain has a strong tradition of being pigeon fanciers and keepers of aviary birds – is this tradition still as strong as it once was?
Yes, the tradition is still as strong as ever among fanciers. Pigeon fanciers talk about their racing passion being ‘in their blood.’ Bucktons remains a highly respected brand in racing pigeons and its strong ties within the community through sponsorship keeps it as prominent as ever in the marketplace.
Although the aviary market is relatively small, those who keep aviary birds often have a long tradition of doing so. Many may have inherited a bird from a relative and keep the tradition alive.
Is the trend of attracting wild birds to our gardens as strong as ever?
Our own research shows as many as 50% of people in the UK feed the birds and this is increasing thanks to recent media coverage on the plight of some species. The UK is definitely a nation that wants to ‘do their bit’ for the nation’s birds. This represents a great opportunity for wild bird manufacturers and retailers to convert these people into product consumers.
How has the new look for Bucktons plus the new products been received since the launch at PATS Telford in September?
We’ve had really positive feedback so far this year. The innovation in categories which have had very little activity in recent years has added new interest and excitement to the fixture.
Consumers understand the benefits of providing added value pet food and the benefits they bring and so we are excited to prove the same is the case for pigeons and aviary birds.
Justin Heaton has joined the company from a specialist in small pet products, does this mean that Westland will soon be extending its range to include small furries?
Bucktons is looking at the bigger pet picture, and will at some point launch new food products across multiple pet categories. Its long-term mission is to build ‘a better kind of bird and pet food brand’.