Lee Haughton, Environmental Manager with Premier Foods Group (pictured above at Roadford Lake), tells us about the passion the company has, not only for food and its suppliers, but the water that makes it all happen.
We LOVE food at Premier Foods. We love how it brings people together and provides moments of pleasure in a busy world. And so do our consumers.
Many of our brands have been part of UK life for more than a century, but we don’t let them stand still – we’re constantly innovating in line with our purpose to create the food the nation loves most for modern life. And today you’ll find our brands in around 94% of British households.
As one of Britain’s biggest listed food companies, we’re committed to the UK economy, employing more than 4,000 dedicated colleagues at 10 manufacturing sites up and down the country. Around 96% of what we sell is made in the UK from quality ingredients; wherever we can, sourced sustainably from British suppliers and farmers.
The Ambrosia Creamery is situated in Tinhay, Lifton, and has been producing there for more than 100 years. The River Lyd, a tributary of the River Tamar runs past the Lifton site, forming the boundary on three sides.
We abstract the water from the Lyd, clean and disinfect it, then use it to cool the canning and pot filling processes on site, before cleaning and cooling it at the site effluent plant, and discharging back to the river…cleaner than when it was extracted!
All of the rainwater that falls on the site is also cleaned before running into the river, making the site water positive – we put back more than we take out.
The Ambrosia Creamery is susceptible to ‘100-year flood’ events due to the River Lyd running alongside the site. Anything that can be done to slow down storm run-off into the river will help prevent flooding.
Tree planting is one of the most cost-effective solutions for this. But conversely, we need the river to have a strong flow and remain cool and clean during the summer months, so planting trees will help the rainwater stay in the ground longer, helping to maintain flow. Tree planting along the river margins helps cool the river water via shading.
Since 2015, Premier Foods has partnered with The Woodland Trust to plant trees as part of our Green Matters scheme. This scheme planted four trees for every tonne of CO2 our manufacturing sites reduce by each year, effectively doubling the CO2 reduction.
Working with Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT)
By expanding our Green Matters scheme, and thanks to our partnership with WRT’s Tamar Water Stewardship Business Board (TWSBB), we have been able to greatly increase the number of trees planted – 16,000 in 2020, up from 4,000 in 2019.
This expansion has benefitted from collaborating with Tamar catchment farmers and South West Water to plant on their land near Lifton, and by involving those farmers and TWSBB volunteers to plant the trees.
I explain more in my video below, on-site near Roadford Lake where our first trees via the TWSBB have been planted.
Premier Foods is committed to sustainable continuous improvement championed by our Green Matters scheme, well embedded across our manufacturing sites.
The benefits to the planet and people have been greatly expanded thanks to our partnership with the TSWBB. The programme forms a blueprint for how we can work with similar groups in other river catchments around the country.
Progress and future plans
As Courtauld 2025 signatories, we are committed to ‘working collaboratively to reduce water stress’ but were unsure of how to meet this target. However, once we came together with other food businesses, charities and interested parties such as South West Water, and discuss shared priorities and impacts, it was surprising how much we all have in common – and how collaboration with all stakeholders was a key enabler of success.
Our Green Matters scheme has enabled tree planting on Woodland Trust land each year, with up to 4,000 trees per year. Taking that existing project and expanding it by working with TWSBB members to plant trees in the Tamar catchment meant we could have an impact nearer to our sites.
The programme meant we could plant 16,000 trees for the same cost and deliver a range of other important natural capital benefits near our Ambrosia factory, which benefited not only our site but for all TWSBB members and other stakeholders in the community.
We strongly believe that other river catchments can use our group as a model for implementation in their region. Eventually it would be great if all our manufacturing sites could be involved in similar collaborative projects with their local catchment partnership, thereby maximising the feeling of ownership for all of our colleagues as well as reducing water stress across the country.