Posted on Tuesday 14 August 2018 by Ulster Business
Chris Kirke has just taken over in charge of Northern Ireland’s biggest company.
In his first interview since taking over at the helm of Moy Park, he says he wants to grow the already huge poultry giant further still, expanding into new untapped markets.
Moy Park retains its position at number one on the Ulster Business Top 100, with turnover of more than £1.4bn, employing around 6,400 people in Northern Ireland alone.
London-born Chris Kirke, formerly with the Greencore group in the US, replaced long-serving boss Janet McCollum this summer, less than a year after Craigavon-based Moy Park was taken over by new US owners Pilgrim’s.
“My role is to work very hard on the returns the business makes, grow it appropriately in the right areas,” he told Ulster Business.
“We need to be at the forefront of winning with customers, both ones we have and ones we would like to have.
“We have to think of this business as a European business. It’s based in Craigavon, but supplies around Europe.”
The company supplies Moy Park branded and own label chicken products to leading retailers and foodservice providers throughout the UK, Ireland and Europe.
And looking at Moy Park in numbers, the company processes six million fresh chickens each week, 600,000 turkeys a year, along with 200,000 tonnes of ‘added value products’.
That’s something which Chris is keen to expand and grow.
Moy Park has production facilities at a dozen sites across the UK, Holland and France
“When you look at the organisation, they are client-based. We have an A-list of clients,” he said.
“The facilities are some fantastic, well-invested, and capital spent in the right places. The values centre around the people and the development. It is a business with a long heritage, and the outlook for the business is fantastic.”
He said Moy Park’s ability to diversify and bring new products to market is one of its strengths which could assist its new parent company.
But will the Moy Park brand be diluted with the takeover?
“I call ourselves Moy Park – the European division of Pilgrim’s. That’s what we are. We are keeping our heritage.
“We fit into a corporate structure with the Moy Park personality that goes with that.”
On the future and the jobs front, Chris says Moy Park’s Craigavon base will remain its thriving hub.
“I want the business to become a food business. At the moment we are a primary processing business,” he said.
That could include a range of new ‘added value’ areas and convenience foods.
“We need to expand larger categories than those we are in now. In terms of Craigavon, this is our corporate centre and our home.”
On Brexit, he says the business is focused on risk, but is fortunate that the UK is “self-sufficient” with wheat.
“But there are other items we import so we have to be mindful of that,” he said.
Paying tribute to his predecessor, Janet McCollum CBE – chief for four years but rose through the ranks of the business over the course of a 25-year career – Chris said:
“I think Janet built an unbelievable organisation. I think I bring some new eyes, and some different ways of working. I know this from roles I have previously done.
“When someone takes over, they do things in a slightly different way and it grows again.”