Case Studies

The Food Technology Centre has successfully delivered hundreds of projects for local and national food and drink companies. The case studies below share some of their stories and highlight the positive impact of working alongside the team at the centre.

  • Aerona
    Introduction

    Aerona Welsh berry liqueur is the first aronia berry liqueur to be made and sold in the UK. Aronia berries, sometimes called black chokeberry, are the fruit of the deciduous shrub native to eastern North America. The company began in 2010 after Hazel Jones, her husband Gwilym and their family took part in a project called MENTERRA in 2004, a project aiming to develop new crops and plants, as well as traditional and indigenous ones. They trialled the aronia plants as part of this project.

    Aerona

    The project was a success and they now use parts of their farm on the Lleyn Peninsula to grow the berries:

    We didn't think it would take off as it did, but it's been a success. It's quite an unusual thing to grow but it's worked and we're doing well.

    Every bottle of liqueur is unique as they are all hand filled, crafted and finished. After the berries have been used they are not discarded; they are bathed in a rich dark chocolate and are 'the perfect treat for the chocoholic.'

    Two people are employed by the company including Hazel who works for the business on a full time basis and her son who is part time. During busy periods such as the summer months and Christmas, they also employ one seasonal member of staff who helps with packaging and on stalls at food fairs across Wales. In terms of their customer base 70% of their liqueur is sold to the general public in food fairs at stalls, the other 30% is wholesale, (i.e. local shops and delicatessens).

    As Aerona are a family run business, all members of staff live within a five mile radius and 100% of their ingredients are sourced locally.

    Support Provided by the FTC

    Aerona first received support from the FTC when the business was established in 2010, having been signposted to the Centre as part of the MENTERRA project. Hazel explained;

    We've had a load of support off them after that and they've been a lot of help.

    They received shelf life testing to determine best before dates on their product which is important to the business to ensure that it is complying with the most recent legislation. The support also included analysis which enables the characterisation and compositional assessment of food products to be carried out, assisting in a better understanding of processing technology, techniques and product performance in the market place.

    The most important part of the support provided by the FTC was the alcohol testing for the Aerona liqueur which was integral to the business being able to sell their product to the general public:

    We needed the alcohol testing to test how much alcohol we had in the liqueur, without that we wouldn't be able to sell it because it's something you have to have labelled clearly.

    Hazel said that they rely on the advice to ensure 100% compliance with food legislation and regulations. By working with the FTC she felt confident that they were meeting the high standards needed within the industry and were able to continuously improve their product.

    In addition Aerona have used the FTC to carry out trials on new products and to ensure that certain recipes are 'the best they can be'.

    Benefit of the Support

    The most significant benefit to the business is having a FTC that can provide "all the advice we need in one place" ensuring the continuity of support and expertise:

    It would be hard to say where you would go to get this sort of advice. You can't really ask other people who are in the same business because they can be quite secretive about what they do and don't like to share. They're [FTC] very neutral in Llangefni.

    Having a local FTC has meant that the company have grown about 10% quicker according to Hazel, as they haven't had to pay 'a premium', for the support and advice provided. In addition, the FTC has helped them to introduce two new products to the open market supporting them in their continuing business development.

    Their advice also provides Aerona with the 'drive to continue', with Hazel explaining that the FTC have given her a confidence in her product and in selling it within the food industry.

    Working with them [FTC] is like a certificate telling people that what you're selling is worth selling and that people are going to want to buy it.

    Hazel does not feel that there could be any potential improvements to the service provided at the FTC believing that they 'have been able to help us every time'.

    Future Plans

    Aerona are hoping to continue developing their business over the next few years which includes introducing a non-alcoholic version of the liqueur and expanding their chocolate range:

    We're quite happy as we are at the moment and we're not looking at selling to any of the larger shops or supermarkets. We are looking at introducing some new products though and we'll be asking the FTC when we need any help, they're absolutely brilliant!

    Feedback from the FTC

    The Aerona team is an excellent success story, with their company having established themselves as a recognised Welsh brand. Aerona never stands still and are continuously creating new and wonderful added value products from the berries which see Aerona regularly launching new and innovative products. Marie Flinn, Senior Food Technologist

     
  • Beri Da
    Introduction

    Beri Da is a family run business based in Penygroes, Gwynedd consisting of Angela and her daughters Victoria and Anna. Together, the family have devised an exciting line of Welsh food products made from selectively handpicked aronia berries which are grown under organic conditions at their home in Snowdonia to create unique products. They officially launched their vinegar and chutneys in Easter 2015.

    Beri Da

    After visiting a local produce food hall at an agricultural show, Angela wanted to create a food product from the aronia berries, something that all the family could enjoy. Victoria experimented with various techniques and ingredients until finally settling on a fruity vinegar with an unusual chutney to follow:

    We wanted something unique, fresh and new and this just felt like it!

    After being supported to undertake test trading by the Cywain project from December 2014 to March 2015, the family decided to make a go of it and the business has been growing ever since. Both Victoria and Anna continue to work full time as well as working on Beri Da when time permits.

    Their product is sold at Selfridge's stores across the country as well as local shops and delicatessens and in June 2015, The SAVOY, London, highly commended the Fruity Aronia Vinegar which is now being used in its KASPARS Seafood & Grill Restaurant:

    This year has been nonstop, already we've achieved so much and we've only just launched.

    Beri Da source 100% of all their ingredients locally, with Aronia berries grown on their own land and all vegetables for the chutney bought within a 10 mile radius. In addition, because they are a family run business, all members of staff live within a five mile radius. They will continue to source everything locally for the foreseeable future.

    Support Provided by the FTC

    Beri Da received support from the FTC before launching their Beri Da products. Specifically they received a nutritional value breakdown on their vinegar and chutney in order to complete the labels required for the retail market:

    We had to get everything labelled properly, make sure it had the ingredients, salt content and things like that. When you've never done anything like this before it can be daunting but they [FTC] were very helpful.

    They also received advice on the shelf-life of their product; it is the manufacturer's responsibility to assign a shelf-life for each product that is produced. Even if predictive mathematical models have been used to give a firm idea of the shelf-life of a product, a laboratory based determination of microbiological activity within a food over time will still often be necessary. Beri Da's product was stored under the required storage conditions and tested at suitable time points for relevant organisms.

    Beri Da received advice from the team at the centre and also spoke to them often over the phone, especially in the lead up to the launch:

    It was great to be able to just pick up the phone and speak to them or pop there, it's so close.

    Benefit of the Support

    The main benefit of the support received is that Beri Da were able to launch their product sooner than if they had had access to the service at the FTC:

    I think it would have taken us at least another six months before we launched and I don't think it would have been the right time then.

    Because they were able to launch before the Royal Welsh Show (2015) they won the 'Best New Product in Show' award and Victoria explained that this would not have been possible without the support from the FTC. It was an important award to win in her opinion, and it provided them with a platform on which to build a solid customer base and expand.

    In addition, the FTC gave them the confidence to launch their product sooner rather than later and being able to access the support locally and face to face was also important:

    Because you could just go to see them in Llangefni you felt like you understood the process more and that gave us more confidence. We could do things face to face instead of buying a testing kit online or something. It made us feel better.

    Victoria feels that without the expertise provided at the FTC, they wouldn't be where we are now and is very grateful for the support they received.

    Feedback from FTC

    It has been fantastic to see what Beri Da has achieved in such a short space of time! We are pleased to have provided technical support for their award winning product. It is great to see a new business start-up move forward so quickly, to the point where they are now listed with Selfridges. Paul Roberts, Business Developer

    Future Plans

    The future plans for the business include expansion and selling their product on more shelves. They've already won a '2015 Great Taste Award' and hope to continue getting the word out there.

  • Bim's Kitchen
    Introduction

    Bim's Kitchen is the creation of husband and wife team James 'Bim' and Nicola Adedeji and was established in 2010. They are a small family business based in Flintshire that makes an award-winning range of their own-recipe African-inspired food products based on the dishes of Nigeria where Bim was born. They use 'exotic' ingredients native to or commonly used in Africa like baobab fruit, cashew nuts, alligator pepper, cubeb and hibiscus flowers amongst others, to make easy-to-use sauces and condiments.

    Bim's Kitchen

    Both Nicola and Bim work for the business on a full time basis and all their products are hand cooked in small batches in their commercial kitchen in Aberwen using unique, high quality ingredients. Five years ago they were living and working in London with their two young children, Nicola as a local government worker and Bim as a civil servant, but they wanted a change in lifestyle. Some of their recipes had long been enjoyed by friends, family and work colleagues who actively encouraged them to develop a range of retail products for them and others to enjoy. As a result, they started cooking from their home in London, selling their products at local markets and then to local stores. As the business grew, they realised that they needed more space and equipment to expand:

    It was never the plan to stay in London forever; we knew we wanted to move out at some point. So when we found we could no longer meet demand for our products from our home kitchen, we decided to move. We were looking at places all over the country but it was in Flintshire that we found an old public house with a commercial kitchen perfect for us.

    The family also knew of other artisan producers living and working in Wales and were encouraged and 'inspired' by the support available to businesses in Wales. Their products are stocked in local shops and delicatessens across Wales and beyond through distributors such as Cotswold Fayre, Blas ar Fwyd (Based in Llanrwst) and Diverse Foods and they have small but growing export sales. They are also regulars at local food fairs and festivals across Wales.

    Bim's Kitchen source around 30% of their ingredients locally, with 70% from specialist suppliers elsewhere in the UK. Their range of products is stocked in farmshops and delis such as Rhug Estate Farm Shop, Blas ar Fwyd, Hawarden Farmshop, Wondrously Welsh and Bodnant Welsh Food which contributes towards promoting local produce and the wider economy in Wales.

    Support Provided by the FTC

    Bim's Kitchen first heard about the support available through their Business Advisor at Flintshire County Council as well as through the Food and Drink team at Business Wales who signposted them to the FTC. During their initial visit to the FTC two years ago, Bim and Nicola considered using the facilities available for short-term production, but they ultimately decided against that option because it was 'just that little bit too far away from home to make effective use of the facilities.' Instead, they decided to get their own kitchen properly equipped and in production.

    After meeting the FTC team, they were eager to access other aspects of the support available and as a result received shelf-life and technical advice on some of their products:

    There were a lot of things we needed to update as we set up in Flintshire… the FTC helped us to validate our existing production processes and put more structured and verifiable quality assurance in place. They've been a very useful source of advice and information to make sure that we're doing things properly.

    In addition, Bim and Nicola recently completed their Level 3 HACCP award for Food Manufacturing at the FTC where they learnt about the HACCP process and its role within food manufacturing and how to develop, monitor and evaluate their own HACCP-based system.

    In terms of future support, Bim's Kitchen is now working towards achieving SALSA accreditation which would mean they could attract business from larger retailers. The FTC are helping them to achieve this by providing dedicated expert staff support; assistance in developing the documentation required for SALSA accreditation and advice on other changes that should help with the SALSA process. As Bim explained, getting SALSA accreditation can be a 'complicated, long drawn out process, especially for a small business of just two people.' Without the support provided, the business would be finding the process difficult:

    There's a lot of paperwork involved and requirements for so many documented policies and procedures that many small businesses just do not have the resource to develop on their own. However support from FTC made this a much more manageable process.

    With regards to potential improvements, Bim feels that there 'should be a bigger team' at the FTC knowing that that their expertise is 'in ever increasing demand.'

    Feedback from FTC

    Bim's Kitchen continues to establish themselves as a vibrant and exciting company. The FTC are pleased to have supported them in working toward their SALSA accreditation. Bim's are set for further growth as they continue to develop, new and innovative products. Ann Marie Flinn, Senior Food Technologist

    Benefit of the Support

    The most notable benefit of the support provided has been an increase in 'business confidence' which has come from being able to discuss and develop food production management systems relevant to their business, which takes into account current food legislation and guidelines. In addition, Bim feels that the FTC has been an excellent 'single point of contact' for any questions or concerns they may have on the technological aspects of food production and this has made them feel more confident of running a successful food business in Wales.

    The business is growing at a rate of 20%-30% per year, and he explained that because of the resources available, the FTC has saved them 5%-10%, increasing their profit margins:

    You just don't get this kind of support in England which is such a shame, but it's fantastic that we have this resource on our doorstep and it has made a huge difference to us.

    He also feels that the FTC has provided them with a 'clearer direction' for the business in terms of assisting and advising them on their SALSA accreditation. This accreditation will help the business to expand and break into wider markets and will secure future growth. Bim explained that they 'wouldn't have had the time,' to work towards it without the support of the FTC:

    The business is growing and it will grow even more when we get our accreditation. The FTC has given us the confidence to pursue more growth and they have definitely helped to equip us for the future.

    With regard to this, he suggested that the FTC has a depth of understanding and knowledge on current legislation and technical food production issues which many small businesses can find daunting and make them feel 'vulnerable.' The FTC has helped them feel more 'secure,' and put in place systems that ensure that they can demonstrate that they are 'doing the right things.'

    The business has now won a total of thirteen 'Great Taste Awards' including four in 2015 and hope to continue with this success in the future.

    Future Plans

    As previously noted, Bim's Kitchen is looking to complete their SALSA accreditation which they hope will help expand their sales into bigger retailers and more exports. In moving to Flintshire, they increased their production capacity by investing in more commercial cooking equipment and other facilities which should stand them in good stead for their immediate further expansion.

    Bim and Nicola are very grateful to the FTC for all their support:

    We're glad that we're working with the FTC and we wish that others over the border had the same facilities. A lot of small businesses with a lot of potential are struggling with capacity and finding affordable resources like this and we feel very lucky.

     
  • Bodnant Welsh Food Centre
    Introduction

    The Bodnant Welsh Food Centre is set in the heart of the Conwy Valley and is surrounded by the stunning scenery of Snowdonia. It is housed at the renovated Furnace Farm on the Bodnant Estate.

    On site is an extensive farm shop, a tea room, restaurant, dairy, bakery and a cookery school. The Centre offers a platform on which to showcase quality Welsh produce and to strengthen links between production, processing and the consumer. Nearly three quarters of the products are Welsh, half from North Wales alone - including food produced on the Bodnant Estate, such as lamb, milk, cheese and honey.

    Bodnant Welsh Food Centre

    The site itself employs approximately 100 members of staff, with a majority working full time and their range of produce is sold online, in the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre itself and in local shops and delicatessens.

    Aberwen Cheese is produced using milk sourced within half a mile of the Bodnant Food Centre.

    Support Provided by the FTC

    The Bodnant Welsh Food Centre accessed support from the FTC for product development at their dairy. Specifically, in collaboration with Aled, they helped in the development of an internationally recognised cheese called 'Aberwen.'

    The dairy at Bodnant have the facilities to create their own products but working with the FTC allowed them to test their cheese recipe before making larger quantities:

    We have the facilities here to make 1,500 litres of cheese which would have been too much whilst we were testing the recipe. The FTC have a 30-40 litre capacity which worked much better for us and it meant less waste.

    The FTC carried out all development work along with providing advice on nutritional labels, shelf-life as well as other technical advice.

    In addition, the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre received a CIEH Level 3 Award in Implementing Food Safety Management Procedures, which is for business owners and managers of small and medium sized catering and hospitality businesses. It includes the 12 steps in the HACCP process and training in the controls required to ensure food safety.

    Benefit of the Support

    The support provided by the FTC has led to a number of benefits for the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. Specifically they have been able to test the development of a new product "without breaking the bank" and eliminating the risk of producing large quantities.

    Aled explained that this process is "integral to producing good food" as the testing allows you to refine the product and to get it "to the standard you want, without worrying that it's costing too much."

    As a result, developing Aberwen cheese, which won a bronze in the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich (2015), has been cost effective for the Bodnant dairy and has allowed them to develop a locally made product:

    We produce local food, so it's important that we stick to that with everything that we do. Having the Centre in Llangefni has strengthened our local ethos.

    Aled believes that the staff's expertise and knowledge were integral to the development of Aberwen which has contributed 10% towards the growth of their dairy industry at the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. They have recently launched Bodnant Cheese Club which includes samples of Aberwen cheese which they hope will increase their customer base.

    In addition, working with the FTC has allowed them to compete with larger dairies who have their own new product development facilities:

    We just didn't have the facilities to test products and I'm not sure we would have been able to create Aberwen without the help of the FTC.

    As a result, Aled explained that they are able to produce a high quality product without a huge amount of resource, saving the Centre money without compromising on quality. They now produce larger quantities of Aberwen cheese at their own dairy at the Bodnant Centre, but would not be doing so were it not for the support and assistance of the FTC:

    They have a background in cheese and therefore have a lot of experience in what they're doing. We didn't have that at the beginning but with their help we can still produce good quality cheese.

    Feedback from the FTC

    The Food Technology Centre has been involved from the infant stage of this flagship retail outlet. Supporting the development of the Aberwen cheese range has seen the brand go from strength to strength. Working with Bodnant, the FTC team has provided technical support and an opportunity to utilise facilities to undertake discreet new product development. Martin Jardine, Food Technology Centre Manager

    Future Plans

    The Bodnant Dairy are now working with the FTC on a new product and hope to continue to grow and develop their range of dairy products whilst maintaining their ethos:

    We've got the facilities to make the cheese, we just need to expand on what we have available, with the help and experience of others.

     
  • Castell Gwyn Cheese
    Introduction

    Castell Gwyn Cheese is a new business based in Conwy, North Wales and is run by Jackie Whittaker. Her stock consists of a Lancashire type cheese as well as a brie and a camembert, and although she has not officially launched her product yet, she has been "very busy" marketing and branding her produce. She has also won a Silver Award at the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich (2015) for her St.Tudno Artisan Camembert which was developed in the FTC.

    Castell Gwyn Cheese

    It was the FTC that "planted the seed" of Castell Gwyn Cheese after Jackie attended a three day cheese course at the site:

    I've always wanted to start my own business and having been in that environment and seeing what they do, I was inspired to try it. I thought it would be fun to try something completely different.

    She currently works full time at Bangor University on the LEAD Wales programme which is a 10-month Leadership Development programme designed with leaders and owner-managers of small and medium sized businesses and social enterprises in mind.

    Having worked on LEAD Wales for nearly five years and worked with nearly 300 businesses and having listened to great master classes, I have learnt a lot about business – from building successful brands, understanding the impact of social media and the importance of networking, it's all helped me.

    Support Provided by the FTC

    Jackie first heard about the FTC through her work with Bangor University and in 2013 she attended a course at the site where she learnt the art of practical cheese making. The course also included the classification of cheese during different stages of manufacture:

    It taught you everything you needed to know at those first stages, especially for a beginner like me who really didn't know anything at all.

    After the course, she became interested in starting her own business and stayed in contact with the FTC. It was them who made her aware of the grants available through Cywain and she received joint mentoring support, labelling support and test trading through a structured approach, providing her with an opportunity to test trade at various events and locations. She received a 75% grant though Cywain which contributed towards various aspects of the business:

    It was through the FTC and Cywain that I heard about all the support that was available to help me. They were a good team.

    Part of her new product development included using the facilities at the FTC to make the cheese, making the process "much more possible," according to Jackie. In addition, she received advice on food safety systems, technical advice, nutritional analysis and micro testing of her product to ensure the cheese was 'fit for purpose'.

    Benefit of the Support

    The main benefit of the support is that Jackie would not have established Castell Gwyn Cheese without the support received. Specifically, she explained that "a centre that offers everything," including advice on financial assistance would have been "impossible to find."

    The aspects of the support that have been most valuable to the business have included the one to one mentoring and advice, the expertise and knowledge of the subject as well as an understanding of the wider market and economy. All have contributed towards Jackie feeling confident in her product as well as instilling confidence in her to start her own business:

    All in all it's been a massive opportunity and it's opened doors and made something happen, I've always wanted to start my own business and they've given me the confidence to do it.

    Feedback from FTC

    The Food Technology Centre has worked with Castell Gwyn from its concept stage through to it becoming an established business. Passionate and driven Castell Gwyn will become even more successful. This drive alongside the FTC technical support for NPD and systems development, positions them well." Ann Marie Flinn, Senior Food Technologist

    Future Plans

    Jackie will be launching her product before Christmas 2015 and already has orders from local shops and delicatessens. Her plans for the future include expansion which would mean employing an additional member of staff and at a later date she is hoping to export her product:

    I'm looking to create a great artisan cheese brand in North Wales.

     
  • Cryms
    Introduction

    Cryms is a micro business based on the Lleyn Peninsula, Gwynedd and owned by Kit Ellis and Sioned Williams. Their produce includes a range of shortbread biscuits, fudge and a traditional treacle toffee (Sioned's mother's recipe). They use a "unique blend" of flavours and spices, including lemon meringue, cinnamon and pecan and savoury cheese to ensure the taste of the biscuits "stand out," and they also prepare delicacies which cater for customers who have certain dietary requirements such as diabetes, in addition to a gluten free option.

    Cryms

    Cryms was established in November 2013 as a partnership between "two close friends" and the business has been growing steadily ever since. Sioned, who prepares and cooks each recipe, was once Kit's student in college, and they have known each other for 25 years:

    You could say that it [Cryms] started off as an accident. Sioned used to make homemade biscuits for her holiday cottage guests and I happened to be there at the house one day when she was baking. I told her straight as I bit into one that she had to sell them, and that she could make a fortune. We might not have made that fortune yet, but it's going well.

    Kit explained that Sioned reacted to her comment by replying that she'd once been told by a fortune teller that she would one day excel in her baking skills, feeding their idea and increasing their determination to make the business a success:

    Both of us love working within the agricultural community, and our business idea was a part of being able to continue working locally at Sioned's farm. I think it must be because we both love working with men and come from an agricultural background!

    Both work in the business on a full time basis and employ three members of seasonal staff during their busiest periods, including the summer months and depending on demand in the run up to Christmas. Over the last year and due to an increase in demand, the number of seasonal staff they employ to help sell the product at food festivals across Wales has increased by two. Being able to employ themselves as well as additional members of staff when needed has been a "bonus," for the business.

    Sioned worked from her own kitchen at home before having her own unit built at her farm in 2012. With this unit, Sioned can cook approximately 2,000 biscuits per day according to Kit:

    It's important to us that everything we create has that homemade feel and taste about them so Sioned makes everything herself.

    They currently sell their produce at a variety of local delicatessens across Wales and in larger retailers such as Spar and Londis.

    In regards to Cryms link to the local economy, all members of staff, including seasonal employees live on the Lleyn Peninsula. In terms of suppliers, 100% of suppliers are based in the British Isles with 10% coming from the local economy in Gwynedd and Anglesey.

    Support provided by the FTC

    Cryms first received support from FTC in 2013/14 and the contact between Kit and the centre has been regular on a monthly basis, by telephone or email. Both Kit and Sioned heard about the support available through word of mouth and proceeded to attend a CIEH Level 2 Award in Food Safety at the centre as part of their business development. The training was beneficial in that it improved their understanding of food preparation and storing and also increased their awareness of legislation and applying and monitoring good hygiene practices.

    They were motivated to access further support through the Centre as a result of the training, with Kit expressing that the staff at the Centre had been "very supportive," and:

    ...had a real understanding of what we are trying to achieve with our product with that homemade feel.

    The FTC facilities allowed Cryms to manufacture their product on a small industrial scale and to test a variety of different tastes and flavour combinations, giving them the opportunity to trial a certain type of shortbread before releasing it on to the open market. Hiring the facilities meant that they were able to decide if there was a demand for their product before they invested in any specialised kitchen equipment for their own personal unit.

    It is an "important part of every food business, to see if there is a point to go any further" and the quality of the service provided by the FTC as well as an evident demand for their product, inspired them to continue to develop Cryms. They were also given advice on the legal compliance of food labelling, including water activity (part of labelling requirements) and were given feedback on the breakdown of their ingredients. This advice ensured that they were fulfilling all the legal requirements essential for their business.

    No similar support services have been identified locally by Cryms and Kit believes that the Centres proximity to their home on the Lleyn Peninsula is also an important part of the support. Kit explained that this type of support was an invaluable part of their business development; being able to access localised expertise and knowledge as well as being given advice on how to proceed with different ideas and products.

    In terms of potential improvements to the FTC support, Kit believes that the FTC could promote what they offer and what is being done in the facilities better, explaining that she doesn not think that "enough is being done to let other businesses know how much they [FTC] can help."

    Benefit of the Support

    The support provided through the FTC has enabled Cryms to further develop their business or as described by Kit, "help us to know what works and what doesn't and to make sure that we're doing everything properly," through testing and identifying a market for a new product.

    One of the challenges of establishing a food based business, according to Kit, is being able to understand and follow all the essential legislation requirements involved when selling the product to the wider public, and without the support provided by the FTC, the business would have found it difficult to continue developing as they have:

    I'm not saying that we wouldn't have carried on, it's just that it would have taken much longer for us to understand what was expected of us and what exactly we'd need to do to make sure that all our labels were correct. We wouldn't be able to sell our produce if it wasn't for them.

    As a result, Kit believes that Cryms would not have established itself as well as it has over the last year and that they would be 12 months behind where they are now without the support. Specifically, she expressed that an increase in turnover of about 30% over the last year is partly the result of the support provided by the FTC, which has also resulted in them being able to employ additional staff.

    She also praised the passion that the Centre staff have towards their clients and towards the produce that they work with:

    Their attitude is inspiring, they obviously have a passion for what they do and this really shows through when you're working with them. It makes the process what it's meant to be, fun and satisfying but also passionate.

    This passion was even more evident when the business received an email from the Centre on the same day they won a 2015 Great Taste Award for their treacle toffee, with Kit claiming that it is those "small touches that make you want to work with them again.

    Local knowledge as well as having a FTC local to them has also been important to the business, specifically Cryms are now looking at expanding their kitchens to a local bakery whom they met as part of their work with the FTC. This will mean an increase in productivity contributing towards future expansion plans.

    Having a good relationship with the FTC has encouraged Cryms to consider how to best capitalise on selling new products and the equipment available at the FTC was a great benefit; "they let us borrow a certain cheese cutter so we could make a cast out of it for our own biscuits, I'm not sure that there's many centres who would help you with the little things like that."

    Future Plans

    Cryms is looking at working from an additional premises at a local bakery (a contact made through the FTC) once or twice a week in order to expand and to increase productivity. Six weeks ago they received a biscuit order from Europe for 44,000 packets, a quantity they would not be able to produce without increasing their capacity. Maintaining the quality and integrity of the produce is very important to them both, and allowing Sioned to continue baking her own delicacies is an important part of this.

    In addition, they are looking to sell their products to larger supermarkets and will be attending and showcasing their products at events such as the Speciality and Fine Food Fair in London in September 2015.

    Feedback from FTC

    We are delighted that Cryms is experiencing considerable growth both in the UK and overseas and it is an exciting time for Sioned and Kit, who have worked closely with the Centre. Going forward we aim to provide support to further develop new lines and additional products to push further growth. Paul Roberts, Business Developer

     
  • Eboni ac Eifori
    Introduction

    Eboni ac Eifori is a family run business based in Pwllheli on the Lleyn Peninsula. The family includes Andrew, his wife Linda and two sons Mathew and Ben. It was Mathew who decided to establish the company in 2008 after leaving Bristol University:

    Mathew wanted to go to work in London to do something with banking, that had been his thing, but banking was going through a bit of a rough patch at the time so he decided to do something in the meantime that would earn him a living.

     
    Eboni ac Eifori

    Whilst cooking fudge for family and friends during the Christmas of 2008, it was his mother that inspired him to create Eboni ac Eifori. The fudge was "so good that he suggested she sell it" and she in turn, thought it should be his project whilst waiting for that "perfect job to come along."

    In February 2009 Eboni ac Eifori began trading. Its main products are traditionally made Welsh fudge, but they have also expanded into creating and selling toffee and toffee sauces and other own brand confectionary.

    Mathew is now working as a chartered accountant in London and his brother Ben, along with Andrew and Linda, have taken over the day to day running of the business. Including themselves, the total number of full time staff they employ is five; this number has increased by two over the last two years. They currently sell their product in 200 Marks and Spencers stores across the country and to a range of locally based businesses and delicatessens.

    Eboni ac Eifori use local produce from North West Wales where possible. They manufacture locally and source 50% of their ingredients in Gwynedd. This includes sourcing from other local micro businesses such as Halen Môn , Poblado Coffi and Snowdonia Honey:

    Sourcing some of our more specialised ingredients locally is what makes us different and gives us that little bit extra. You make good connections and you meet people at local food festivals and it all contributes to the local economy.

    Other products which cannot be sourced locally, inevitably come from further afield, for example sugar from England. Every member of staff live on the Lleyn Peninsula.

    Support provided by the FTC

    Eboni ac Eifori first became aware of the support provided by the FTC in 2010 through other local food producers. According to Andrew the FTC came "highly recommended" with the business going on to access a variety of support ranging from advice on labelling and legislation to shelf-life.

    The FTC also assisted the business in completing their SALSA, a food-safety standard which reflects both the legal requirements of producers and the enhanced expectations of 'best practice' of professional food buyers. As a result of this accreditation the business can now:

    Think about selling to those bigger supermarkets like Waitrose and M&S, and we've started doing just that. The FTC helped us with this by telling us what we'd need to do to get this accreditation.

    A member of the FTC was able to provide advice and ensure that they reached all health and safety standards. Achieving this enabled Eboni ac Eifori to develop their business, as it highlights the fact that they have the correct procedures in place to make sure that the food produced is safe to eat. As a result, they can now sell to major retailers who endorse the standard.

    Andrew was able to test the shelf-life of a range of their fudge which "gave us confidence that what we are selling is clear to go to the customer." They also received technical advice on labelling their product in terms of its nutritional value.

    He explained that each country or area has its own nutrition labelling regulations, and differences in approved and recommended testing methods are widespread. The FTC assisted him in ensuring that he is displaying the correct nutritional information for his product, and as a result the process was "made much simpler" because of their support.

    Andrew is aware that other food technology centres exist but is grateful that he has access to a local centre on Anglesey that can provide technical and practical advice and guidance.

    Benefit of the Support

    The support provided by the FTC has led to a number of benefits for Eboni ac Eifori. Most notable is the assistance with the SALSA accreditation which has meant their Toffee Sauce is sold on the shelves of 200 Marks and Spencers stores across the country. Andrew believes that without the support, the business would also be "a year behind" in its development:

    We wouldn't be where we are today. The more you get yourself out there the more people are going to see your product and the more successful the business is going to be.

    It has also meant an increase in the region of 10% in their turnover over the last year and an increase in two seasonal staff to package the product.

    As a result of their recent success, Eboni ac Eifori have won a number of Great Taste Awards, most recently a gold star for their Vanilla Fudge, which they "make each and every day," and which will also be stocked in Marks and Spencer's before Christmas. Their on-going relationship with the retailer is "positive," and will continue to help them grow over the next few years.

    The technical and nutritional advice provided has increased their confidence to react to changing regulations and compliance with their markets and has made them feel they have a better expertise to safely deliver quality food to customers:

    It cemented for us that what we have is good enough to sell and that all the hard work has been worth it.

    Andrew also believes that the expertise that the FTC can offer is significant, with an understanding of the role of small local producers and the support they may need to break into the bigger markets.

    Feedback from FTC

    The Food Technology Centre has seen Eboni ac Eifori grow their business at an extraordinary rate. We are delighted that the technical advice and support the FTC provided has helped increase confidence to secure listings with key multiple retailers like Marks & Spencers. Paul Roberts, Business Developer

    Future Plans

    Eboni ac Eifori are hoping to continue their trend of selling to the larger retailers and supermarkets. This year, they had a stall at the Royal Welsh Show which attracted the attention of the Co-operative, Asda and Selfridges and as a result they hope to be selling on their shelves in the future:

    For now we're just ploughing on and keeping that hammer on the wheel. We're expanding all the time and we hope to continue growing over the next few years.

     
  • South Caernarfon Creameries
    Introduction

    South Caernarfon Creameries is a farmer owned co-operative established in 1938 and is based on the Lleyn Peninsula. It is Wales' oldest and largest dairy co-operative.

    The South Caernarfon Creameries' story begins back in 1938 when John Owen Roberts had a vision to "see dairy farmers working together to enable them to market their own milk." At that time, farmers were reluctant to commit. There had been other milk co-operatives in the area that had already failed and there was additional resistance from farmers who were selling their milk directly to local people in the towns and villages of the Peninsula; they saw the milk co-operative as a threat to their livelihoods. Membership back in 1938 was a tentative 63 producer members but today the figure is 200.

    South Caernarfon Creameries

    Today, 7,500 tonnes of cheese is made on site each year. For much of its time, South Caernarfon Creameries has also produced butter and in 2011, the Creamery invested in a traditional butter churn which ensured that Welsh butter could be made "authentically." Both their cheese and butter are now sold under the 'Dragon' brand.

    The company employs 100 full time members of staff and supply their cheese and butter nationally and internationally, to supermarkets across the UK and to smaller local retailers and delicatessens.

    All members of staff employed by the dairy live within a 20 mile radius and 90% of their supplies are sourced locally. Their co-operative status also means that they ensure a "fair price locally" for all their members.

    Support Provided by FTC

    South Caernarfon Creameries have accessed a range of support from the FTC over a number of years.

    We've been in contact with them for quite a long time, I would say at least 10 years. We probably speak informally every three months or so, but it depends on what we've got going on.

    They first approached the FTC to carry out tests on their milk which was "the frothiest" according to Richard and they enlisted the help of the FTC to research why this was. It was the protein in the milk that was responsible and South Caernarfon Creameries were able to prove this with confidence:

    It was important to us to be able to prove why our milk was the frothiest. It wasn't some special ingredient it was the natural protein in the milk.

    The company then approached the FTC to carry out tests to reduce salt in their butter in order to comply with FSA guidelines. The FSA are trying to limit the amount of salt in food production and have updated guidelines on acceptable levels allowed in produce. South Caernarfon Creameries were able to achieve the targets set by the FSA by working with the FTC. This ensured continued supply with current retailers and potential new ones.

    In addition the company have completed Health and Safety courses through the FTC including a Level 2 Award in Food Safety and a Level 3 Award in HACCP for Food Manufacturing which is for business owners and managers of all food manufacturing businesses. It is based on a one-day training programme designed to ensure candidates develop the requisite knowledge and practical skills to implement a HACCP plan in their workplace.

    The support that was received met Richards' initial expectations and exceeded them once he realised the benefits that the support has provided to the company.

    Benefits of the Support

    The support provided through the FTC has meant that the company are aware of national legislation and guidelines that allow them to sell their product "confidently" in the market place. Specifically, the salt tests carried out on their butter allowed them to reduce the salt "without compromising on quality" and without risking its marketability:

    We were able to work with them to work on the salt content in our butter without too much resource from us and with their specialist experience. That way our product would still be good and we could be confident that we were following guidelines correctly.

    The support provided allowed them to reduce costs by about 5%, with Richard claiming that the FTC had the capacity to help the company in a "cost effective way." He also believes that the FTC have provided them with increased business confidence, especially in regards to current food legislation and guidelines.

    The FTC's local proximity to the company is also important and in particular they "offer something so specialised so local." They are able to communicate to buyers that they have the FTC "on our doorstep," which has contributed towards increasing sales.

    The support provided has also benefitted the business through increasing the confidence of staff. The training and workshops that were delivered through the FTC have increased their day to day confidence, equipping them with the skills they need to undertake their job efficiently:

    We would have had to go to the South of England to complete some of these courses, instead they came to us and delivered it here. You couldn't really ask for much more than that.

    Feedback from FTC

    The Food Technology Centre is delighted to work with a key regional employer like SCC [South Caernarfon Creameries]. Over several years the centre has developed an open and trusted relationship which allows the centre to support SCC with training and technical input in a responsive manner". Martin Jardine, Food Technology Centre Manager

    Future Plans

    South Caernarfon Creameries are in the process of building a new cheese factory on the same site which will be completed in November 2015. They are hoping to reinforce the company by "investing in its future" which is important for the local economy as well as for its co-operative members. If needed they will enlist the help of the FTC in the future claiming:

    We have a very good relationship with them [FTC] nothing is too big, and we hope to continue this relationship over the coming years.

     
  • The Little Welsh Cheese Company
    Introduction

    The concept of the Little Welsh Cheese Company was established in 2014 by Jo Smith who has "a passion for all things food." The company is "as it says on the tin" a small Cheese maker in Wales. At the time of this interview, it had not begun trading but Jo was in the process of designing packaging and labels for her product and organising a launch event:

    It's all very exciting. The time has finally come when I can think about the logistics of launching. I'm just waiting on some microbiology results from Environmental Health that means I can store the cheese at home. I can't really believe we've got this far.

     
    Little Welsh Cheese Company

    This is not Jo's only venture, her and her husband Rob own a bed and breakfast called Hope Mountain which offers quality en-suite bed and breakfast accommodation in the Clwydian Range. They have a commitment towards promoting sustainable living and tourism. Living and working in the Clwydian Mountain Range, an area of outstanding beauty has increased their awareness of the importance to balance the needs of the visitor, the natural environment and the local community.

    Establishing the Little Welsh Cheese Company is part of this ethos with Jo wanting to sell locally made produce to her guests and to local people living in the surrounding area. The company started trials of Cheddar and Gouda cheese in July 2014 and both these cheeses will be available for sale from September 2015.

    All their cheeses are handmade the "traditional way," in Llangefni, Anglesey and are suitable for vegetarians. The cheeses are pressed and then left to mature, some in their own natural rind, underground in their tailor made cheese cave in the cellar of Hope Mountain. Their Welsh Cheddar needs time to mature in order to develop its distinctive flavours and textures and it can matured for anything up to 12 months. They also smoke their own cheese at Hope Mountain using oak chips; "smoking adds an extra dimension to the flavour and texture of the cheese, which offers a distinctive alternative on a great classic cheese".

    Support Provided by FTC

    The Little Welsh Cheese Company was established as the result of a cheese making course attended by Jo at the FTC in 2013. This course provides an introduction to making hard cheese and is aimed at anyone who is considering starting-up cheese manufacturing, anyone involved in the production, quality assurance, purchase or sale of cheese:

    I sort of found the course by accident. I think I'd gone to a local food fair or meeting about local produce and they [FTC] had a stall there. They told me about the course and it all went from there really.

    She specifically wanted to produce a Cheddar and a Gouda cheese and the staff at the FTC centre were able to assist her with this.

    Jo initially spent three days at the Centre creating her produce and it was then left to mature until it was ready. When she first tried the cheese she "wasn't happy" but the staff at the Centre encouraged her to "leave it a while and see". Personal issues meant that she couldn't visit the FTC for a few months but when she returned things had changed:

    The cheese was perfect! They say things happen for a reason and it seemed like it was true this time. It was obvious that my cheese needed longer to mature.

    As part of the cheese making process, Jo also received knowledge transfer of food safety systems, technical advice, nutritional analysis and micro testing of her product to ensure it was 'fit for purpose'.

    Benefit of the Support

    The main benefit of the support provided through the FTC is that Jo would not have gained the knowledge and expertise needed to produce cheese and start her own business without it, explaining that she "wouldn't know where to start."

    Specifically the support has equipped her with the business confidence to create and launch the Little Welsh Cheese Company, a decision she would not have made without the FTC:

    Cheese making has always been something that I've been interested in, but it's a long process and I had no idea how I'd go about making it. The staff [at the FTC] were amazing, they've taught me everything I need to start making my own cheese and soon I'll be launching it. It's crazy really.

    She feels that the staff's "passion" and "energy" towards their work and the knowledge and expertise they provide has meant that she has felt "in capable hands" believing that they have provided her with the personal motivation and the skills to market her product successfully.

    In addition, this year she attended the Royal Welsh Show with samples of her cheese in order to test the product and the market and explained that it was through her contacts at the FTC that she was able to do this:

    It's been a fantastic opportunity and I feel I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing without their support and the contacts they've given me.

    Future Plans

    The Little Welsh Cheese Company will officially launch in September 2015 and Jo hopes to supply local shops and delicatessens as well as selling in local food fairs. She also hopes to enter her cheese into a variety of different competitions including the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich:

    I don't only want to produce good cheese but I also want to be a small company that will also pass on the knowledge to others.

    Feedback from FTC

    Having worked with the Little Welsh Cheese Company throughout the development stage we have no doubt that this product will achieve its goal of becoming an established and recognisable, quality brand. Ann Marie Flinn, Senior Food Technologist

     
  • The Mushroom Garden
    Introduction

    The Mushroom Garden was created in 2003 by Cynan Jones and is based in Snowdonia. It is now an established family business, employing Cynan himself, his wife June, their son Rhys and daughter Megan, all on a part time basis.

    Originally the business was part of a farm diversification scheme implemented by Gwynedd Council and Bangor University, who identified an opportunity to cultivate certain foods (including mushrooms) in parts of Snowdonia. The scheme included research into what crops could be grown by diversifying agricultural land:

    We saw an ideal business opportunity which meant that we could still work on the farm and also grow mushrooms. I've always had an interest in wild mushrooms."

     
    The Mushroom Garden

    Cynan decided to investigate further into a world that had always interested him, starting with the wild mushrooms of Snowdonia and soon turned his attention into cultivating exotic mushrooms in Wales. He has become one of Wales' leading fungi experts and regularly holds courses on fungi as well as wild mushroom foraging trails in Snowdonia.

    Their most famous mushrooms include the Shiitake and the Oyster, which are sold nationally, with 10% of the mushrooms sold in their fresh state and the other 90% sold pickled or dried or processed into seasonings. They have won a number of 'Great Taste Awards' for their produce which includes dried Shiitake, Umami seasoning, Mexican seasoning with a mushroom twist and Shiitake mushroom powder. They also supply 'grow your own' mushroom kits.

    The mushrooms are all grown in controlled units, however the rain and mist in Wales make their garden the perfect place to grow mushrooms. Their produce is also environmentally friendly; even the blocks that the shiitakes are grown on are made from 95% Welsh Oak. As expressed by Cynan:

    We are not a factory or a large scale farm, and do not use any chemicals in our processes; we are committed to run an environmentally friendly local business that does not compromise on quality."

    They supply their mushrooms to local shops, butchers, delis and food halls, with their largest retailer being Booths who have 30 shops across the UK. The business does not sell to larger supermarket chains preferring to retain the "specialised" and "artisan," quality of their produce. The business is most proud of the fact that they are the only European product sold in the Japan Centre in London, which is an "honour" according to Cynan, they have been on sale there for almost two years. They also sell in local food fairs and markets.

    Eighty percent of their supplies are sourced locally.

    Support Provided by FTC

    Cynan first accessed the services available through the FTC 10 years ago when the business was in its infancy. At the time, they were in the process of developing their product and were "being very careful" on how to invest in the business.

    Accessing support through the FTC allowed them to structure and manage new product development without significant personal and financial risk as they were able to hire facilities at a daily cost. They received advice on concept development, qualitative and quantitative prototype product testing, which was beneficial to Cynan in the early days of establishing the business.

    He explained that the support accessed at this time was "very different" to the type of support that the Mushroom Garden now requires, believing that the FTC has been successful in tailoring the support at "every step of the way" adapting their approach to their needs:

    At the beginning we would have needed a very different approach. Back then it was about seeing whether this whole thing would work, and being given the space to be able to do that. Now it's more about developing new products, product testing and branding. They [FTC] were able to do all that."

    More recently, Cynan has used the range of services available for technical advice on blending different seasonings, shelf-life tests and micro testing. They have also taken advantage of the food microbiological laboratory that the FTC have on site. This service offers full traceability and UKAS accreditation for a broad and expanding range of analysis.

    Cynan does not feel that there needs to be any improvement to the range of support offered at the FTC, explaining that: "they've been able to give us everything we've needed and have supported us in any way we've asked. It's been invaluable."

    Benefit of the Support

    Cynan believes that the FTC has had a positive impact on the development and growth of the Mushroom Garden. Because of its proximity to the business, the FTC's understanding of the local area and markets has been beneficial in providing a "platform" on which to expand. Cynan explained that the impact he believed the Centre had on his business was a result of their understanding and expertise:

    I think that the business would be about two years behind [what] it is now if it wasn't for the help we've received. It's allowed us to move quicker with developing and launching new products."

    The support provided has also increased their business confidence in breaking into larger markets because of this expertise and the "sound technical advice," provided. Their success in working with larger retailers and fine food fairs is partly due to the FTC having close links with several other key organisations and agencies across Wales, which has enabled them to benefit from an established network of contacts.

    The Mushroom Garden will be exhibiting in the Speciality Fine Food Fair in London this year, as well as launching a new product that was developed in the FTC: "I feel that we're very blessed to have this type of support in Wales especially compared to other countries."
    Future Plans

    For the future, the Mushroom Garden is hoping to expand by increasing its products and sales. They will enlist the help of the FTC when they need to:

    We are always looking to introduce something new to the market and we'll just carry on as we are, thinking up new ideas and developing new products."

    Feedback from FTC

    The Food Technology Centre is delighted to work with the Mushroom Garden as they are always keen to develop new and innovative products. With FTC technical input to the development process their interesting product range is going from strength to strength, whilst staying true to their commitment to ethical production methods. Martin Jardine, Food Technology Centre Manager

     

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