PepsiCo announced a UK£58 million investment in its Walkers factory in Leicester, marking the company’s biggest investment in the UK in the last 25 years.
The factory in Leicester is home to Walkers crisps and snacks which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. The investment will oversee a new manufacturing line installed, replacing existing machinery with more sustainable equipment and an extensive upgrade of employee facilities for the site’s 1120 strong workforce.
According to the company, investments total more than £120 million in UK manufacturing operations and supply chain since 2020. The scale of this latest investment is intended to secure the future of the factory and position Walkers for further growth in the long term.
“In 2023 we’re celebrating 75 years of Walkers crisps, so there’s no better time to renew our commitment to Leicester – a city and community that have been crucial to our success in the UK. As we look ahead to the next 75 years and future-proof our UK operations, this £58 million investment will transform our manufacturing site and installing state-of-the-art equipment will help us deliver on our ambitions on packaging and health,” explained Jason Richards, Senior Vice President and General Manager, PepsiCo UK and Ireland. “Alongside upgrades to meet increased demand for our snacks, we’re proud to be investing in creating better facilities for our people, who remain at the heart of bringing our most loved snacks to households across the country.“
The investment has four focus areas designed to deliver sustainable growth, with specific updates to drive progress towards packaging and health goals as part of pep+.
This includes a new production line to meet growing demand for Walkers snacks. Installation of the new line will increase capacity at the factory and enable the production of more Walkers snacks, notably Wotsits and Monster Munch. These products have grown in popularity in recent years, in part due to new flavours and formats such as Wotsits Crunchy.
Additionally, Wotsits Giants and Monster Munch Giants, which are currently manufactured in Europe, will be made in Leicester once construction is complete in 2024. This move will help reduce transport-related emissions by an estimated 915 tonnes a year, equivalent to taking around 540 cars off UK roads.
Investing in sustainable equipment includes changing from gas fired ovens to electric ones, supplied with 100% renewable electricity, helping to cut around 1000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. These efforts will drive progress towards the pep+ commitment to target an absolute reduction across our value chain by more than 40% by 2030, reaching net-zero emissions by 2040.
New compact packaging equipment will also be installed to reduce the amount of virgin plastic used in multipack outer packaging by 56 tonnes a year, as PepsiCo move towards the pep+ goal of eliminating virgin fossil-based plastic from the crisp and snack bags across Europe by 2030.
This follows sustainable food packaging innovations announced last year, including new cardboard designs replacing outer plastic packaging on millions of Walkers 20-bag multipacks, and the use of new nanotechnology to create a stronger stretch film on our pallets that uses less virgin plastic.
The funding will also bring in innovative technology to enable development of further healthier ranges from 2024. These are set to play a key role, the company said, in meeting the ambition to have half of Walkers snacks sales come from products that do not categorise as HFSS or those sold in portions of 100kcal or less by 2025.
Finally, the investment will go towards opening up new training and upskilling opportunities for the 1120 Leicester employees. 100 new roles will be created to manage the new equipment and technology being installed.
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