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25 April, 2012 - 22:20 By Tony Quested

Gressingham quacks new export markets


Life is everything it’s quacked up to be for East Anglian duck products supplier Gressingham.

The company’s turnover has tripled from £30m to £90m in the last five years on the back of major export successes. One of the region’s top food and drink companies, Gressingham, has now announced that it is to invest heavily in an ambitious plan to encourage an additional half-a-million consumers across the UK to cook with duck. This is in addition to its continuing overseas sales drive.

The new strategy includes rebranding, product development and the largest marketing campaign ever undertaken for fresh duck in the UK.

Gressingham, which has offices in Debach, Suffolk and Redgrave near Diss, Norfolk, is the principal supplier of fresh duck to the retail sector and a significant provider to restaurants (with over 38 per cent market share of the food service sector). The company has over 500 employees throughout East Anglia and ranks among the fastest growing private food and drink businesses in the UK. It has about 60 farms across Norfolk and Suffolk with some in Cambridgeshire and Essex.

Fresh duck is currently valued at £45 million in the retail sector and Gressingham joint managing director, William Buchanan, says the company has an exciting opportunity to exploit.

“This is a really exciting time for us; with an increasing number of couples looking for a distinctive treat at home and the rising price of lamb and beef there is a natural opportunity for Gressingham Duck.”

A family business founded in 1971, Gressingham Foods is the only company in the world licensed to produce Gressingham Duck, a unique cross-breed of wild Mallard and Pekin renowned for its superior taste and higher percentage of breast meat.

Having built on the success of the Gressingham Duck, the company has extended its product portfolio to include geese and poultry as well as speciality meats and ready meals under the Gressingham Foods name.

Duck is popular in Denmark which is now Gressingham’s largest export market. Buchanan said the company’s export business actually started in France, which is the largest market for duck, and the first ever export product was duck legs.

Crispy aromatic duck is the most widely consumed format, whether in restaurants, as a takeaway or increasingly from retailers. But Buchanan says that more consumers are now interested in cooking with duck. Traditionally this has been primarily cooking whole bird as a roast but consumers are increasingly cooking with duck breast and duck leg portions with more contemporary and easier to cook recipes that fit their lifestyle.

Gressingham has never shrunk from the opportunity of investing in potential growth. Buchanan said the most significant investment for the business was the acquisition of two companies five years ago, including Kerry Foods and the site at Redgrave near Diss, which saw headcount go from 200 people to the current 500.

Buchanan said: “Since then we have consistently invested in the production facilities at both factories as well as our farms. Our turnover five years ago was about £30m and this has tripled to about £90m today.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: William Buchanan

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