The UK’s largest independent producer of dry pet food is concerned that the health of the nation’s pets could be at risk in the event of a hard Brexit.
“There are some 15 million pet cats and dogs in the UK. Naturally their owners want to ensure that they are able to purchase their favourite products without major interruption from supply side issues,” said Richard Page, managing director of Inspired Pet Nutrition (IPN), the company behind the well-known Wagg and Harringtons brands.
“This is not a comment on the pros and cons of Brexit itself, but we are concerned that in the event of a hard or no deal Brexit, minimal planning has been done to deal with the congestion which is likely to occur at UK ports. This could cause significant disruption to our supply chains and damage an industry which is valued at about £3 billion.”
Currently IPN sources some 85% of its raw materials from within the UK including wheat from the Vale of York and packaging from Somerset. However, raw materials such as maize currently come from France where growers can guarantee to supply the huge volumes required, whilst other raw materials – such as turkey proteins - are not manufactured in the UK in sufficient volumes and have to be sourced from mainland Europe.
“People are focussed on how goods from Europe could be affected at the ports, ignoring the fact these goods will also be joining an import queue of other materials from around the world,” he added. “Like many businesses, we operate a just in time production schedule with raw materials such as maize only delivered 2-3 days before it is required. This enables us to achieve production efficiencies and product quality which would be at risk if we were to face supply chain disruption.”
While a recent Institute of Directors survey of UK business leaders showed that nearly 50% were not intending to do any planning for Brexit, IPN has a six-strong team which meets weekly as part of its determination to ensure the business is fully prepared for whatever Brexit agreement finally emerges.
IPN is focussed on mitigating post-Brexit risks and has gone through its full supply chain, analysing the countries of origin for all its raw materials. Part of IPN’s strategy will be to treble stock of finished products and increase stock of ‘at risk’ raw materials. It is hoped this will provide a good buffer for customers, should disruption at ports become a reality. As a further safeguard, and to ensure these stock levels can be reached, IPN has also obtained additional warehouse space.
Despite the likely challenges which will be posed by a hard Brexit, Richard Page feels the business is as well-placed as it can practically be. “Whether the product is a baked treat, extruded dry pet food or a wet dog product sold in trays, we can make it at our three factories where we have invested some £60 million over the past 14 years,” he added. “We are currently working on sourcing an even higher percentage of our raw materials from within the UK and, as an independent, family run business we can respond very quickly to market opportunities.”
Michael Bellingham, CEO of the PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association) commented: “Market access with frictionless borders is vital to our members as some 80% of them currently export to the EU and 50% import raw materials or finished goods. A large number of our members are planning seriously and we are working closely with them. We share their real concerns, however, that all the planning in the world will amount to nothing if ports gum up and owners find they cannot get hold of the products their pets prefer."