Aunt Bessie’s is a UK brand offering products based on traditional British recipes. It produces a range of frozen and stuffed food products including six million Yorkshire puddings a day. The company is a part of William Jackson Food Group.
It began supplying the frozen Yorkshire Pudding to Butlins Holiday Campus in 1974 and established itself as a company in 1995. It owns three plants in Hull in the north of England and employs more than 350 people.
The company aims to increase its brand sales from £168m in 2007 to £250m by 2012. Aunt Bessie’s plans to achieve its target without opening new factories, although it is prepared to invest in new technology including automation of pudding weighing and packaging.
In March 2007, the company wanted to make its Yorkshire pudding brand even more convenient for the consumer while making the packaging and weighing of the product easier.
Aunt Bessie’s currently produces 20 million single serve puddings every week. To achieve this level of packaging efficiency, the company contracted packaging producer Ishida Europe to design and install a bespoke weighing and packing solution to fully automate the packing process of the Yorkshire puddings.
The company had previously worked with Ishida on other packaging projects with positive results.
Ishida equipped the weighers with five-litre hoppers for the product to move fast during the weighing process.
In addition to Yorkshire puddings, Aunt Bessie’s uses the Ishida weighers for other brands, such as mini Yorkshire puddings, dumplings and stuffing balls.
Aunt Bessie’s packaging solution
The main part of each of the packaging lines is an Ishida multi-head weigher.
The multi-head weigher uses count priority software to weigh each Yorkshire pudding produced and outputted to the conveyor. The system ‘counts’ by weight the required number of puddings into the standard bags of 12, 15 and 25 puddings.
Operating in ‘twin’ mode, it can weigh and pack products into two packs simultaneously.
The weighers are equipped with an enhanced auto feed function enabling the product feed to each of the hoppers to be adjusted automatically during the packaging operation, providing a uniform supply of product to each pool and weigh hopper.
Ishida also supplied feed conveyors, vibratory conveyors, crosshead feeders and gantry supports for the weighers.
The effectiveness of the new packaging system has enabled Aunt Bessie’s to change the packaging of its Yorkshire puddings from its familiar flow-wrapped trays to the more convenient bags.
In order to minimise the downtime, Ishida-designed washing facilities were installed at the top of the gantry near the weighers. This allowed faster cleaning of the machines between production runs and hence more efficient production.
Different programmes and pack sizes are stored in the weigher’s memory for fast changeovers at the touch of a button on the colour touch screen RCU (remote control unit).
Other developments at the Hull facility
In 2005, Aunt Bessie’s expanded the production facility in Hull. Houlton, a builder based in Hull, carried out the construction, which required an investment of £1.1m. The duration of the project was 30 weeks and it involved construction of a 90mx20m building to make room for a new oven and flash freezer hall.
Houlton constructed the building with steel on piled foundations. A tarmac for the delivery areas and car parks was also built by the company. The new building houses a specialist Saieb 3 continuous feed oven and conveyor. The building is also fitted with the necessary mechanical and electrical services by the company.
In May 2011, to optimise its supply chain and plant operations, Aunt Bessie’s replaced the existing enterprise asset management (EAM) solution with QAD’s EAM to support operations including the manufacturing, supply chain and financial operations.