VENISON PRODUCER Highland Game is to invest £150,000 in new safety measures to protect frontline staff following the Covid pandemic.

The Dundee based food firm - which supplies customers such as ASDA, Aldi, Morrisons and Tesco - has also created at least 15 new jobs to add to its team of 80 employees, to ensure staff can work in shift patterns whilst social distancing.

Highland Game’s Sales & Marketing Manager, Euan Ross, said: “Due to COVID-19, and the shut-down of hotels and restaurants across Europe, we have lost a large tranche of our market. Our focus is now entirely on retail where we continue to see year on year growth in excess of 15%.

“Had it not been for the dedication, inventiveness and determination of our staff, many of whom have come to work in the factory, when so many around them were staying at home, we would not have been able to keep the business operating,” he continued. “We have been overwhelmed by their loyalty and dedication.

“Under the government restrictions set out by COVID-19, the cost of doing business has skyrocketed and while our overall sales will be impacted, we made the decision to reduce our efficiency as safeguarding our staff and retail business is our priority. Throughout the crisis, we have continued to supply without interruption meaning that all our efforts to grow with our retail partners continue as planned,” Mr Ross explained.

Structural layout changes in the plant include an increase in production lines, new machinery and automation, new procedures and staff training as well as additional PPE, alongside additional clean down procedures.

The sudden loss of Highland Games’ wholesale, food service and export markets required careful management of their carcass balance and output and with limited success in crossover to retail.

Technical and Procurement Manager, Kirsty Macdonald, added: “We’ve been working closely with all our supply chain partners throughout Scotland and the North of England, creating a streamlined, better planned and more efficiently delivered deer supply and processing supply chain. With retail as the key avenue for supply it is our aim to continue to boost consumer confidence, whilst we wait for the food service and catering industry to bounce back, resulting in more natively sourced venison being sold and consumed in Scotland and throughout the UK.”

Mr Ross concluded: “As of mid-July, we are increasing our sales force capacity in England. As part of our drive to reset our business, we are looking long-term with the appointment of a specialist sales manager to extend our reach and service, driving greater appeal for venison in non-retail channels such as food service & wholesale, third party manufacturing and online partners.”