THE workforce at Walkers Shortbread’s newest factory is set to double next year despite company officials fearing the outlook for 2014 is not encouraging.
Another 20 employees could be taken on at the 3,500 sq m site in Fisherton, Aberlour, to help improve capacity and efficiency. More machines are set to be installed as part of the £7 million investment before the venue is fully operational next year.
It comes as new accounts for the Moray-based company, lodged with Companies House, show an operating profit spike from £8.619 million in 2011 to £14.603 million last year — a rise of 69.4 per cent. Profit after tax jumped 69.5 per cent from £6.478 million to £10.981 million.
Walkers’ turnover has more than doubled over the past 10 years to £123.7 million — up 3.8 per cent on £119.1 million in 2011 — and the Christmas demand has seen seasonal workers boost staff levels to a record high of 1,650 with the company at its manufacturing peak.
But joint managing director Jim Walker, who stressed the “significant contribution” employment levels made to the local economy, expects profit to slip this year and next due to food and raw material inflation, plus exports being affected by changes in the strength of the pound.
“We are hoping we will be able to hold our own, but it might make growth more difficult and might mean a flat year. This year I think we are in good shape, but next year will be more challenging, I’m sure.”
“We are pretty solid and in a strong enough position to maintain employment and keep the company going,” he added.
Read the full Jim Walker interview by our business editor Andy Dixon in 'The Scot' print version on Friday.