Our Cantley factory in Norfolk has a special place in the history of this country’s sugar industry. Built in 1912, it was the first modern British beet sugar factory. Britain’s first crop was grown and processed here, leading the way in the homegrown sugar industry. For over 100 years, the factory has been a landmark on the banks of the River Yare, from where it can be seen for miles around.
Today, Cantley factory processes over 10,000 tonnes of beet a day, delivered by around 750 UK growers, at an average distance of 28 miles from field to factory. Annually, Cantley supplies around 200,000 tonnes of sugar to food and drink manufacturers in the UK and Europe.
Set in the heart of Broads National Park, Cantley factory is surrounded by areas of marshland which is important for both natural habitat and bird life. Our own extensive pond systems are home to a huge variety of birds. Recent rare bird visitors include a Red Necked Phalarope, Black Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Lapwing and Ruff.
In total, we have four processing factories, Bury St Edmunds, Cantley, Newark and Wissington. Around 3,600 growers from 18 counties supply our four factories, producing over 1 million tonnes of sugar in the UK, and supplying the nation with around half our sugar needs.
All of our factories produce more than just sugar. Although sugar production remains at the heart of our operations, by using our highly integrated approach to manufacturing we develop and sell a diverse range of sustainable products. From sugar to electricity and tomatoes to animal feed, each product we market responds to customer needs, whilst making a contribution to our efficient use of raw materials.
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Historically, sugar making amongst employees had the feel of a family business with fathers, sons and daughters working alongside each other in the factory. The tradition of long-service continues today and some of our employees have worked at British Sugar for many years, providing our business with a wealth of knowledge and a high level of skill and experience. Our workforce contributes to the development and growth of the business to ensure we continue to be a high-performance manufacturing operation.
We also continue to support the development of young people in the industry, which is demonstrated in our graduate and apprentice schemes, our long standing relationships with Loughborough University, and the Sugar Industry programme developed by British Sugar and the National Farmers’ Union, which recognises that young growers are the future of British agriculture.
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We take great pride in our industry and what has been achieved over the last 100 years; from responding to a changing competitive environment such as the last regime reform, seeking continuous improvements to raise our efficiency, and increasing our productivity to create value across the industry.
Our efforts are aimed at using existing assets more efficiently and developing sustainable opportunities for the future. Over the years we have made major contributions to the economy. The UK beet sugar industry makes a total economic contribution of around £1 billion each year and the local economy benefits from a substantial proportion of this in the form of crop payments, capital investments, maintenance expenditure and raw materials. The industry also contributes to around 13,000 jobs throughout the supply chain, making the industry one of the leading rural employers in the East of England.
It is our belief that our performance and successes are a result of the partnerships we have between our growers and industry. By continuing to work together we can look forward to a future of greater innovation, sustainable progress and continued pride in what we do.