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It's gr-r-reat to work at Kellog's plant

Published date: 25 April 2013 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


 

Many people enjoy tucking into their favourite cereal at breakfast each and every day, but how many
of those people appreciate that many cereals sold by renowned manufacturer Kellogg’s are
produced in Wrexham? Rhian Waller reports...

 

FOR 35 years the distinctive smell of toasted bran has hung in the air over Wrexham Industrial Estate.

This Sunday, some of the 500 plus staff at the Kellogg’s factory will mark the plant’s anniversary.

A handful of them will remember the royal opening of the factory which took place on April 28, 1978.

From humble origins – the plant employed just 40 workers at its opening and ran only one production line – the site expanded into a mainstay of employment for Wrexham families and has grown into one of the biggest exporters of cereal to the continent.

“We still see it as a power house,” said plant director Karen Thomas. “We manufacture Kellogg’s adult brands, like Special K, Bran Flakes and Nutrigrain bars. Sixty per cent of what we make in Wrexham is Special K.”

Indeed the factory is one of the major suppliers of the cereal – so think on that next time you see the iconic advert of the woman in a red dress. She might be eating wholegrain cooked and flaked at Wrexham.

The building itself is a massive tangle of pipes, stairwells, conveyer belts and toasting ovens.

So big is it that it is difficult to stumble across a shift worker, although there are dozens of them maintaining the machines and keeping the colossal drums where tonnes of raw material are slowly rotated as they dry, turning into the food that lines your bowl first thing in the morning.

In the packing area lazer-guided pallet trucks wander around, delivering crates of packaged cereals to the warehouse where they wait, stacked like skyscrapers built from cardboard and tomorrow’s breakfast.

It’s a bit eerie, seeing the bright yellow machines perform their programmed, unmanned ballet but, despite the hypermodernity of the Kellogg’s technology, Karen and her colleagues are convinced the mystery ingredient of the plant’s success lies with the staff.

“What’s the secret?” asked Ken Griffiths, who hails from Wrexham, nodding at his colleagues. “You’re looking at it.”

Ken has worked at Kellogg’s in Wrexham since the very start. He remembered seeing the Queen, observing: “They had a brass band and a red carpet through the reception. She had on the same outfit she wore for the FA Cup final.”

He was not alone.

Steve Dawson, 54, of Wrexham, was involved in the creation of the plant: “I put the concrete in when the plant was being built. I worked for Fairclough Builders at the time."

After a quick career switch, Steve was employed at the plant, which he described as a “good place to work” – so good that his son Martin, 32, followed suit eight years ago.

The management are keen to promote the factory as a family-friendly workplace, with a series of open days coming up, complete with creche and face painting.

But the plant played a part in the creation of at least one family.

Liz Regan, 55, of Bangor-on-Dee, who has also worked at the factory for 35 years, met husband John there.

She said: “He retired two years ago but we used to drive to out shifts together every day. It was lovely working with him.”

If you are imagining a romantic scene where the Regans eyes met across the Fruit ‘n’ Fibre, you’d be disappointed. Liz worked in the office.

But when asked a cheeky question about their first date, she joked: “It snapped, crackled and popped.”

Karen Thomas said: “We have an incredibly low attrition rate. In 35 years, we’ve only ever had one full staff turnover. That’s incredible, since an average healthy business can expect many times that.

“People just seem to want to stay.”

One reason for this, according to another long-termer, Ray Evans, is that management did not stand on ceremony.

He said: “We always called them by their first names. It was all very informal.”

Coincidentally, Ray and fellow 35-year Kelloggs workers Carl Price and Billy Taylor, who sometimes work on shift together, all went to the same class in the same school, Ysgol Bryn Alyn.

The plant, it seems, is a community in its own right.

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

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