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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 10:04 GMT
Pickle 'demand rises' after fire
The factory after the fire
The fire at the factory was blamed on halogen lights
The company that makes Branston pickle has predicted a possible "run" on the product in stores after its factory was gutted by fire last week.

Suffolk-based Premier Foods said it anticipated possible "significant short-term customer demand" on its two-week supply of the condiment.

But the company said it was confident it could fulfil holiday demand.

"People won't have to go out and desperately buy Branston for Christmas," a spokeswoman said.

She said a run on the brand could result in current stocks - enough to cover about two weeks of sales - being sold much quicker than normal.

The company, based in Bury St Edmunds, said it expected to restart some production within three weeks and would move gradually to full production of all its products during December and January.

Branston pickle jar
Branston is just one of the products in Premier's portfolio

It was also in talks with other manufacturers about covering production of certain products starting this month, until the plant in Suffolk was fully up and running.

The factory also makes Hayward's pickles, Loyd Grossman sauces and the Waistline range.

The fire on 27 October has been blamed on halogen lights which ignited the plastic packaging on bottles.

Premier said it had insurance in place to cover material damage and the loss of profits, subject to an excess of 1m.

Major food producer

Last month, the group's former majority owner, private equity company Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, sold its remaining 20% stake in the Branston pickle firm.

It owned 93% of Premier until a July stock market flotation reduced its holding down to 20%.

Hicks, which will no longer have a holding in the company, bought Premier in 1999 and oversaw major expansion at the St Albans-based operation, including through the acquisition of Nestle's ambient food business in 2002.

That added brands including Branston, Crosse & Blackwell, Sarson's vinegar and Sun-Pat.

Premier began to take its current shape in 1986 with the acquisition of the tea and foods business of Cadbury Schweppes.

Pickle fire 'caused by lighting'
29 Oct 04  |  Suffolk
Blaze forces pickle plant closure
27 Oct 04  |  Suffolk

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