Iceland Hires Star Chefs to Develop Own Label Products

Iceland Foods, the Deeside, Flintshire, Wales-headquartered frozen food retail chain, has created a new product development team for its own brand with the appointment of Neil Nugent to the position of head of product development and David Lennox as development chef.

Iceland neil nugentNeil Nugent, former executive chef at Morrisons, is now in charge of own brand product development at Iceland Foods.Nugent began his career as a restaurant chef, and worked in many award-winning and Michelin-starred establishments before joining Asda as innovations chef in 1997. In 2008 he became executive chef at Waitrose, where he was responsible for a number of important innovations including the introduction of the Heston from Waitrose range, the development of the Duchy Originals and Waitrose Essentials brands, and the creation of the Waitrose cookery school.

From 2011 he spent three years at Morrisons as executive chef, where his achievements included the creation of a new product development facility and the introduction of the M Kitchen brand. Most recently he has been working to deliver a new concept development for Pizza Express. Throughout his career Nugent has remained a hands-on chef and was for seven years co-owner of the critically acclaimed J. Baker’s Bistro in York.

Lennox also began his career as a restaurant chef before moving into product development with Bakkavor and then joining Waitrose, where he worked closely with Nugent on the Heston range. He then spent almost four years working as the lead development chef at Morrisons from 2011.

“I am really looking forward to working with Malcolm Walker and the Iceland team to develop a quality brand strategy that has a major focus on innovation and on the many advantages of frozen food,” said Nugent. “Frozen food is every chef’s best friend and we will build on Iceland’s striking ‘Power of Frozen’ campaign to make more and more people aware that freezing is simply the best way to preserve, store and manage their food. I am particularly pleased to be reunited with David Lennox, who is a brilliantly creative chef with whom I worked closely at both Waitrose and Morrisons.”

Iceland Founder and Chief Executive Malcolm Walker commented: “These two senior appointments underline my personal commitment to making Iceland known for great quality food and cutting-edge innovation, as well as outstanding value. In Neil and David we have recruited two of the brightest and most experienced stars in their field in the UK, and we are all hugely excited at what the future holds for the Iceland brand.”

Jobs at Gorton Factory at Risk
Meanwhile, as two chefs have been added to the payroll, the future of perhaps 150 workers at Iceland’s manufacturing plant in Gorton, England, is up in the air as the company restructures business operations. If jobs are eliminated, this would be the second round of redundancies at the factory since Iceland Foods acquired the facility in 2013 from Loxton Food Company. A few years ago approximately 450 workers were employed at the site.

Iceland chicken pizzaiolaAmong products in the Slimming World range is this Chicken Pizzaiola offering, which features tender butterflied chicken breast meat topped with rich tomato and herb sauce with whole baby plum tomatoes. Other dishes in the line include Sweet Potato Curry, Singapore Noodles, Roasted Vegetable Pasta and Hot-Smoked Salmon Farfalle.The Manchester Evening News recently published comments from an unnamed senior staff member at the factory who remarked: “The management say the job losses are due to restructuring, but this is not true. The company farmed out manufacturing of ready meals to other companies when Gorton got the contract to do the Slimming World meals. Now we don’t have enough work – that is a management decision. The managers say the redundancies are subject to consultation, but we expect about 150 of us to go.”

Addressing workers’ concern about the future, Bev Mitchell, managing director of Iceland Manufacturing Ltd, commented: “Whilst the Slimming World range plays an important role in underpinning the future of the business, it has not been the sole determining factor in the restructure of the business. We would like to reiterate that given the nature of this announcement, we will not be providing any further comment or updates until the consultation process is completed, and all of our employees will be offered support through the process.”