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TOP Yorkshire bird food manufacturer Johnston & Jeff is flying high with an investment that will see it increase production by 60 per cent.

The company has installed a new blending plant, at its manufacturing site at Gilberdyke, East Yorkshire.  They have been supported with £30K from the Hull and East Yorkshire LEP’s Growing Hull & East Yorkshire grant scheme. Growing Hull and East Yorkshire is funded by the LEP’s Getting Building Fund programme, secured as part of the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.

Johnston & Jeff is one of the UK’s leading bird seed suppliers, providing high quality blends and individual feeds for the wild bird market, as well as for companion birds such as parrots and aviary species.

The blending plant, which will be used to make parrot and aviary bird food, builds on a £1m factory expansion completed two years ago which coincided with the company’s 140th anniversary.

Left to Right; Chris Grange – (J &J) Commercial Manager, James Newman OBE – Chair of the HEY LEP, Maddy Johnston – (J & J) Marketing & Media Manager, Stephen Savage– Deputy Chair HEY LEP Investment Panel

Richard Johnston, Managing Director of Johnston & Jeff and fourth generation member of the Johnston family, said the investment had been driven by increasing demand in the wild bird market for higher quality, more nutritious blends.

But he added the COVID pandemic had played a role too, as many people bought companion birds during lockdown for company, and because they had the time to look after them.

This is borne out by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association which found that 3.2m UK households had acquired some sort of pet since the start of lockdown, with around 1.3m of those being birds*.

Mr Johnston said: “Feeding wild birds, and companion bird ownership, increased significantly during the pandemic. This has been driven by a lot of factors.

“With many people either working from home or being furloughed, they have had chance to reflect on what is important to them. Some concluded it is doing more to help nature and wildlife, others may have made the room and time for a pet they’ve always wanted. Some have done both.

“Which ever it is, it is wonderful to see all types of birds being so popular with the public again. They are beautiful creatures to watch and engage with, and new generations are just beginning to learn that.”

Mr Johnston added that the new blending plant would enable the business to increase production across the board, of both wild bird food and food for pet birds.

“The new blending plant will be used specifically for parrot and aviary blends to achieve better blending of ingredients that vary in size and shape, and to ensure a clean, thorough mix,” he said.

“This means we can dedicate our existing blending plant to making wild bird food, enabling us to increase running times and efficiency, while building on the product quality we’re renowned for.

“By adding in a second shift and some ancillary equipment, we will be able to realise an increase in production capacity of 60 per cent, helping us to grow market share in our core business areas.”

Pictured above: Richard Johnston with new Blending Plant

As well as investing in new infrastructure, Johnston & Jeff has recently taken steps to increase the sustainability of its products.

The business has introduced paper sacks for some of its most popular lines, and cardboard ‘Eco-boxes’ for its Dried Mealworms, Dried Calciworms, and its special new Bugs, Grubs, and Worms mix, significantly reducing the amount of plastic it uses as well as making its packaging more easily recycled.

HEY LEP Chair, James Newman, along with Deputy Chair, Stephen Savage of the HEY LEP’s Investment Panel, recently visited Johnston & Jeff to see what impact the investment has had on the company and to find out more about the manufacturing process.

James Newman OBE, Chair of the HEY LEP and Stephen Savage, Deputy Chair of the HEY LEP’s Investment Panel jointly said:

“We were delighted to have the opportunity of visiting Johnston and Jeff to see that the grant, awarded by the Growing Hull and East Yorkshire Funding Programme, has significantly improved the Company’s expansion and productivity.

Their process, involving ingredients from all over the world and all areas of manufacturing bird food is akin to food production for human consumption.

Who would have thought that 10% of U.K. bird seed is developed and manufactured in our region!”

The Growing Hull and East Yorkshire Programme closed on March 31st, 2022. The HEY LEP is pleased to advise that the Growing Places Fund, launched on 1st of April 2022, is attracting a wide range of SMEs across both Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire. If you are thinking of growing your business and looking for capital investment please visit the HEY LEP website for further information (https://heylep.com/our-funding-and-projects/funding/growing-places-fund-business-growth-capital-investment-programme/)