Amid a tough customer landscape, food and beverage producer Libstar Group intends to drive in-depth analysis of category gaps and new product innovation – particularly through its Southdale-based Dickon Hall Foods facility – this year to increase its customer relationship advantage and develop additional channels.
Under the Libstar umbrella of innovation, the company intends to allocate significant capital to new technologies, efficiency improvements and integration opportunities, as well as capacity expansion in key categories.
The company also intends to exploit trends touching on areas such as health, wellness, on-the-go and convenience eating, as well as private labels – which constitute about 44% of the group’s revenue.
In showcasing some of its capabilities and capacities, Libstar on Tuesday invited media to tour its Dickon Hall Foods facility, which is the company’s largest contributor to revenue and earnings in Libstar’s ambient groceries category.
Along with Cape Herb and Spice and Rialto Foods, the facility contributes 86% to the ambient groceries category's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation.
Of the products it produces, 52% of capacity is dedicated to producing chutney. The 470 g bottle production line equals about 22% of Dickon Hall Foods’ yearly turnover, with the line running at about 224 bottles a minute.
Included in a total of 16 production lines, are two lines dedicated to producing the 1.1 kg and the 3 kg tubs of Mrs Balls chutney.
Dickon Hall Foods business unit head Niel van Heerden tells Engineering News Online that this means about 70 000 bottles are produced per eight-hour shift, totalling about 1.1-million bottles a week.
In turn, this means that the facility, for chutney production alone, uses about 135 t of sugar and 40 t of peaches – the main ingredient in chutney, as well as large volumes of vinegar and sunflower oil.
For cooking, cleaning and boiler use, the facility uses about 246 000 litres of water a day.
Speaking to media, Van Heerden highlighted that the facility’s strategy is to leverage its customer relationships in both retail and wholesale channels to grow its branded and housebrand sales.
It intends to continue seeking new customers and channels, as well as extend its partnerships with existing customers through “innovative world class new product and alternative packaging development”.
Touching on the tough business environment in South Africa, Van Heerden highlighted that, specifically for a high-volume plant such as Dickon Hall Foods, operating efficiencies, low costs and overall equipment effectiveness are key.
Owing to this, a number of automation projects have been completed in the last six months, with more planned for this year.
Additional planned automation projects include new cappers, collators and trayers on the 470 g chutney line; a robotic packer for the tomato paste line; and robotic packers on the facility’s tub line.
The facility will also be focusing on improving and upholding “optimum manning levels and shift patterns”, as well as improving information systems to monitor the facility’s efficiency on a daily basis.
Dickon Hall Foods is responsible for the production of various brands such as Mrs Balls Chutney, Robertsons Baking Powder and Kellogg’s Noodles.