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Alan Craig takes the Chair
by Lesley Eaton
“Beef is as popular as electricity – it’s in 94% of homes.” So says the new chief executive of Scotland’s largest farmer-owner group of businesses.
Alan Craig recently took over at the helm of the Aberdeenshire-based ANM Group Ltd following the retirement at the end of April of Brian Pack after nearly two decades in charge.
A one month handover period gave Alan the chance to tour the Group’s diverse and geographically far-flung locations from Yorkshire to Caithness, and two weeks into the job proper he is relishing the change and challenges that his new role presents.
The former boss of Perth-based ABP Scotland, Alan Craig started out as a Co-op butcher in the 1970s before moving to FMC in Perth in 1981 where his potential was soon realised when he was chosen to participate in a management training scheme. The move to ABP came in 1990 where he spent time as general manager of the company’s Bathgate premises before taking charge of the Scottish operation in 2002.
There is no doubt that it has been a whirlwind few weeks for Alan, who is juggling the demands of the ANM Group Ltd chief executive’s role with trying to get home to Fife to enjoy some family time whenever he can. But he is relishing his new job, as he explained. He said: “It is very refreshing to get into something with so much variety. It literally goes from store cattle to steak and golf to events.”
But he admits that, until he was appointed to the chief executive’s role, he had never visited the Group’s flagship Thainstone Centre on the outskirts of Inverurie. “Of course I had heard of its reputation,” he said, “but I had never actually set foot in this fantastic and unique facility. It is a brilliant and practical place to do business but it has a great social side too, partly due to all the additional things like shops and banks that there are in the building.
“Seeing the lairage with 2,500 cattle and 3,500 sheep in it on a Friday certainly had the ‘wow’ factor for me and I think if I had seen that before I would have been trying to get a job here years ago!”
Alan is acutely aware of the breadth of ANM Group Ltd’s food businesses, which include Scotch Premier Meat Ltd in Inverurie, Highland Lamb in Dornoch, Charcuterie Continental near Glasgow and Highland Country Foods in Forres. He hopes that the relationships and synergies between different segments of the Group can be built on in the future. He went on: “On the food side of things, one part very much complements another and I think there is scope to become even more of a ‘one-stop-shop’ for our customers. Our companies have a reputation for niche, volume, high end quality products for the retail, foodservice and retail food processors and we will be continuing to work hard to make sure we are consistently supplying the best.
And he believes that sharing knowledge with the consumer plays a key role in maintaining and expanding markets: “I also feel that, in a wider context, there is a great deal of education and marketing to be done about beef, lamb and pork as the general public don’t know much about these products. We need to right many previous wrongs in the information that has been passed to consumers. We need to show them what the product is and how it should be cooked – good beef, lamb and pork should be valued just as much as fine wine but there is a great deal of work to be done by the industry in getting us to that point.”
People are also important to Alan Craig, and he is pleased to be working with an established team where expertise abounds. “Management expertise is a great asset and I believe it is vital to nurture and grow what’s already there to help people realise their true and full potential.”
The warm welcome he has received at Thainstone has been greatly appreciated by Alan who is touched by the goodwill that has been expressed to him. He added: “From the people I have been speaking to since I arrived, there is a lot of optimism in farming and, in many ways, the Group depends on that optimism.
“The ANM Group Ltd has the unique blend of a 125-year history coupled with a vibrant and forward-thinking attitude and that will be vital in helping us to secure the future strength and prosperity of the Group to ensure that goodwill continues.”
For further information on the ANM Group Ltd and its member companies, visit www.goanm.co.uk