The UK president of Cadbury owner Kraft Foods says the integration of the two firms is starting to reap rewards with rising sales – two years on from the controversial takeover.
In a wide-ranging interview following the launch of Kraft’s new global research and development centre at Bournville, the president of the US group’s UK and Ireland operation, Nick Bunker, spoke of his delight at the integration of the two companies, two years on from the controversial £11 billion-plus takeover.
Kraft recently revealed a £17 million investment in Cadbury’s historic Bournville site, and Mr Bunker said the marriage of the two firms was paying off, with a four per cent rise in sales in the firm’s home market.
Meanwhile, Mr Bunker said he was enjoying his involvement with Cadbury, as a Curly-Wurly makes an ideal post-meal treat for his dinner party guests.
“It’s a great way to liven up a dinner party,” said Mr Bunker, the head of more than 5,000 Kraft Food workers in the UK and Ireland, including around 2,500 at Bournville. “It inspires passion, brings back memories, experiences from times gone by.
“The Cadbury name is a fabulous asset. We are Kraft Foods but Cadbury is an exceptionally important brand in that portfolio.”
He added: “We have integrated the two businesses which was a herculean effort. Cadbury was a big, successful multi-national business, as was Kraft – we have created a really compelling vision for the future.
“It has given me great pleasure that during this period of change we have grown the business. After two years, we are now the custodians of these two great businesses and these great brands.
“We have gone through this consolidation process and the business has continued to perform really well. Our business in the UK grew by four per cent – it goes from strength to strength.
“They started off as two teams (Kraft and Cadbury), but at the end of the day, people would come up to me and say ‘you know, they are all right.’”
Mr Bunker praised the group’s investment in the new global research and development centre at Bournville for its chocolate empire – which has drawn a ringing endorsement from the Government.
The Birmingham centre will drive new product development, new technologies and best practices for brands such as Dairy Milk, Flake and Creme Egg. The new complex in Birmingham follows a total of £17 million worth of investment in the UK, including its Bournville and Reading sites, by the US group.
The new Bournville centre includes new innovation labs, a pilot plant facility and a “collaboration kitchen” – a creative space for experimentation with new ideas.
The investment in UK facilities has also boosted jobs, with the research, development and quality workforce in the UK growing by an extra 98, from 552 to 650 employees. A total of 54 of these new jobs are located in Bournville.
Mr Bunker said: “This is not just a vote of confidence in Bournville and the Midlands, it is a vote of confidence in the UK. What is important is that we continue to grow our business; we have created new jobs in research and development.
“We should be judged by our deeds. I think we can look back over the last two years and see quite clearly that we have done what we said we would do. Our people and our brands are our two most important components.”
He quoted impressive statistics from the Kraft UK empire, with annual production at Bournville of 300 million Creme Eggs, 45 million Easter eggs, the much loved £415 million Cadbury Dairy Milk brand and Kraft’s £95 million Philadelphia Cheese. Its latest product, Cadbury Dairy Milk Bubbly, sold a million bars in Tesco stores alone in just three weeks.
David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, said of the R&D centre at Bournville: “This significant investment from Kraft Foods is very welcome news and shows the company’s commitment to maintaining a strong research and development base in the UK.
“It will help drive long-term, sustainable growth as well as supporting hundreds of high tech jobs in both Birmingham and Reading.”
Jean Spence, executive vice-President of Kraft Foods, said: “Kraft Foods is the second largest food business in the world. Two of our global and one of our regional centres of excellence are based here in the UK – making it a centre for world-class R&D in the UK and for the whole business across the globe.”