New packaging equipment to be installed at £58m Walkers factory upgrade

(Yau Ming Low, Shutterstock)

PEPSICO has announced its biggest investment in the UK in the last 25 years with the £58 million upgrade of its Walkers Leicester factory.

Celebrating its 75th birthday this year, the factory is set to have new compact packaging equipment installed as part of the investment, as well as the replacement of existing machinery with more sustainable versions, a new manufacturing line, and ‘extensive upgrade of employee facilities.

It comes as PepsiCo invests more than £120 million in its UK manufacturing operations and supply chain since 2020. It added that the scale of the investment is ‘purposeful’ in securing the future of our factory and positioning Walkers – which was recently named Britain’s third biggest grocery brand – for further growth in the long-term.

Jason Richards, senior VP and general manager of PepsiCo UK and Ireland, said, “In 2023 we’re celebrating 75 years of Walkers crisps, so there’s no better time to renew our commitment to Leicester – a city and community that have been crucial to our success in the UK.

“As we look ahead to the next 75 years and future-proof our UK operations, this £58 million investment will transform our manufacturing site and installing state-of-the-art equipment will help us deliver on our ambitions on packaging and health. Alongside upgrades to meet increased demand for our snacks, we’re proud to be investing in creating better facilities for our people, who remain at the heart of bringing our most loved snacks to households across the country.

The investment has four focus areas designed to deliver sustainable growth, with specific updates being made to drive progress towards packaging and health goals set as part of pep+ (PepsiCo Positive), which is the organisation’s strategic end-to-end business transformation with sustainability at the heart.

New compact packaging equipment will also be installed to reduce the amount of virgin plastic used in multipack outer packaging by 56 tonnes a year, PepsiCo said. It comes as the organisation moves towards its pep+ goal of eliminating virgin fossil-based plastic from our crisp and snack bags across Europe by 2030.

The move follows sustainable food packaging innovations announced last year, including new cardboard designs replacing outer plastic packaging on millions of Walkers 20-bag multipacks, and the use of new nanotechnology to create a stronger stretch film on our pallets that uses less virgin plastic.

Installation of a new manufacturing line will increase capacity at the factory and enable the production of more Walkers snacks, notably Wotsits and Monster Munch. These products have grown in popularity in recent years, which PepsiCo said is in part due to new flavours and formats such as Wotsits Crunchy.

Additionally, Wotsits Giants and Monster Munch Giants, which are currently manufactured in Europe, will be made in Leicester once construction is complete in 2024. This move will help reduce transport-related emissions by an estimated 915 tonnes a year, equivalent to taking around 540 cars off UK roads, the firm said.

Further upgrades include changing from gas fired ovens to electric ones, supplied with 100% renewable electricity, helping cut around 1,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.