Industry trends in food factory design 2024

When it comes to the design and construction of food and drink factories, there is a long list of considerations including high care requirements, people safety, efficiency flows, automation and smart technology, and increasingly, sustainability. 

Oliver Jenkins, business development manager at Clegg Food Projects – a specialist design and build contractor of food, drink and industrial manufacturing facilities – looks five trends for the sector.   

5 trends to watch in food & drink factory design for 2024

1. Sustainability 

Food and drink facilities – either new build or extensions – have a considerable list of items to tick off their list. From eco-efficient buildings to the rise of automation and smart factories, there are several considerations that need to be considered.  

One of the key trends for the food and drink manufacturing sector is sustainability. From embodied carbon in the buildings to reducing energy and associated carbon in their operations. Environmental considerations are becoming increasingly important for our clients when looking at projects for the design and construction of new factories. 

We work closely with our clients and design partners to build efficient buildings that utilise items such as insulated building fabrics, efficient refrigeration plant, and renewable energy technologies – such as Solar Arrays, Air Source Heat Pumps, rainwater harvesting, EV charging points and efficient heating/cooling control systems – which can make a real difference to the facility’s carbon impact.   

We’ve also supported some great on-site biodiversity initiatives – from ‘bug hotels’ and bat boxes to extensive wildflower and tree planting schemes. 

2. Future-proofing technology 

Technology is a key part of becoming more sustainable and can also help companies save money, particularly when looking at long term savings over a building’s lifespan.  

We endeavour with all our projects to consider practical layouts and power requirements ready for the specialist processing equipment installations. High levels of automation, robots, and other smart technology is fast becoming mainstream, and indeed the direction in which many food and drink facilities are heading.  

Food and drink manufacturers are therefore having to future proof their projects with this increased focus on sustainability and smart technologies in mind to ensure they remain relevant and competitive. 

This was particularly true for our project with GR Wright & Sons, where we were tasked with delivering the largest flour mill and warehouse facility to be constructed in the UK in recent years. As the principal contractor, the Clegg team was responsible for the overall design and construction of the milling facility. This included extensive ground preparation, the civil and structural build, ready for the installation of specialist OEM processing and milling equipment. 

The completed development, which spans across six floors and is more than 30m tall, includes the latest in milling processing and packaging technologies and will help to future-proof the business. 

3. Return on Investment and added value 

Budget pressures for Capital investment is nothing new, but with increased costs for; borrowing, materials and energy means that more than ever investments need to offer significant value to business. Clients must pay attention to costs, energy and resource efficiency for projects. Good practical design and engineering in the early stages of projects can significantly optimize investments, with customers return on investment of lower costs – both during construction and operational.   

4. Maximising existing sites  

As Food and drink manufacturers often grow organically adding new lines and products over time, consequently manufacturing space and capacity becomes less available. This is the cycle we see that plays out in the industry and we are well equipped in supporting clients to adapt, modify and extend their existing spaces to meet demand and produce more efficiently.   

Whilst new builds offer the opportunity to design-out existing inefficiencies, this is not usually a practical or easy process. So many companies have to modify and develop their existing assets.  in order to increase capacity or efficiency.   

We have been working with Greggs for more than two decades and the team is currently working on two ‘live’ sites for the UK’s leading baker. The first is in Birmingham where we are converting and extending Greggs’ existing production facility into a regional distribution centre to help meet the baker’s current growth. 

The second development – located at the Greggs Balliol Park site in Newcastle – includes the construction of a new high bay cold storage facility and the subsequent site production redevelopment. Both projects are great examples of reworking current assets to ensure they are working as hard as possible and providing the greatest return. 

5. International interest in UK food grade design and build experience 

The UK is one of the world leaders in food & drink, high-care manufacturing. It is also the UKs biggest manufacturing Sector (source FDF). Factory standards are often driven by supermarkets and leading brands to provide world class products. In turn, their manufacturing facilities need to incorporate the highest food, people and product safety and manufactured efficiently and sustainably. Clegg have been delivering such factories for over 40 years, with repeat business with leading brands such as Coca Cola, Heineken, Greggs, 2SFG, Samworth, Greencore, Lucozade, Quorn to name a few. As members of Campden BRI, we are able to maintain and update our knowledge in world-class food and drink factories.  

As a result, attention from outside the UK has been gathering for a while as certain countries begin to recognise the experience and knowledge of UK food and beverage experts. As a result, international capital projects will continue to grow.   

This is certainly something we are experiencing as we’ve seen enquiries spike for several international food and drink facilities and have been working with a few overseas clients in recent years – including Almari, Saudi Arabia offering design and engineering support for their mega dairy and Malaysian-owned cocoa manufacturer Guan Chong Berhad (GCB). The company appointed Clegg Food Projects as principal contractor in 2022 to convert the former Phillips Avent facility in Glemsford, Suffolk, into a world-class cocoa & chocolate production factory. 

Get in touch with our food and drink factory design specialists 

Get in touch today to discuss how our team can help bring your brand’s vision to life. Whether you’re refurbishing an existing premises or looking for a bespoke design for a new build, our experts are ready to help at every stage of the building’s life cycle.