Explore how we have already helped many food businesses achieve their goals
Many businesses have grown and flourished as a result of the help and support Food Technologists have provided during the 20 years that Food Centre Wales has been operating. Here is a small section of case studies about clients we have worked with:
In the heart of the Welsh Black Mountains, Helen Dunne produces her own range of preserves in her home kitchen in Talgarth. Her homemade luxury jams, chutneys and conserves are completely free of artificial flavourings and preservatives, with a high fruit content and low sugar.
Launched in March 2020 during the first lockdown, Black Mountains Preserves is testament that even during a pandemic it is possible to start a successful food business from home.
The run-up to Christmas saw a huge demand for her luxury Welsh Hampers, which included artisan goods made by other local food producers within the locality, these were a hit and were sold out by mid-December. She has now launched a luxury gift set selection ready for Mother’s Day.
Helen was keen to develop sustainable and recyclable packaging and a loyalty scheme devised, where customers can return empty and used glass jars to Helen, in exchange for a free jar.
When asked what impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on the business:
“Bizarrely, I believe that it has had a positive impact and helped my new fledging business grow. I know that I have received orders from customers determined to support local, rather than shop at large established big brand retailers. I also might not have gone online if I had been kept busy with higher visitor numbers that had been anticipated across the national park in 2020.” – Helen Dunne, Black Mountains Preserves.
The pandemic gave Helen the opportunity to concentrate on new flavours and the positive feedback received from her customers encouraged her to branch out from just the local market to retail outlets across the county and Wales. To reach further afield, Black Mountains Preserves created an online shop and website in October 2020 and now delivers UK wide. Their Bespoke Personalised Jars are proving to be very popular.
Support Provided by the FCW:
Black Mountains Preserves first contacted Food Centre Wales in the spring of 2020 and attended an online start-up session, which explained the support available funded through Project HELIX. Helen then went on to work with a Food Technologist.
“Rhian from Food Centre Wales’ played a pivotal role in my HACCP planning and implementation. Most importantly being there as a sounding board to discuss ideas and new creations. We are currently agreeing a more scientific approach working through ideas and best practice when working with Refractometers and PHMeters. Rhian is also analysing my recipes to establish nutritional details and confirm which of my preserves could be marketed as low sugar recipes. “ - Helen Dunne, Black Mountains Preserves.
Benefit of the Support:
Support and encouragement received from Food Centre Wales’ Food Technologists has given Helen the confidence to believe in her ideas and to continue producing on a larger scale.
Food Centre Wales helped Helen with HACCP, to ensure all correct procedures were used from the beginning, which has enabled Helen to adopt effective systems for setting up her own production.
Helen plans to continue to work with Food Centre Wales to expand the production and increase the range, whilst maintaining the ‘homemade’ process.
A new Taste of Wales Gift Set will be available all year round to include Welsh Ale Chutney, one of their top selling preserves and a new edition of Welsh Gin Marmalade. Look out for the Worldwide Collection which is currently in development.
Launched in July 2020 in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic, Milk Churn is based on a family farm on the outskirts of Llandissilio, where the family’s goal was to diversify the farm to a more resilient business against fluctuating milk prices.
Milk Churn was originally born from the idea of selling raw milk in 2017, but due to the high-risk nature of raw milk, the family decided against it and turned their attention to pasteurised milk a few years later. The milk vending business has been a family effort, but this new business venture is lead by the youngest member of family, Scott Robinson.
The milk vending machine is replenished each morning, with fresh, pasteurised, non-homogenised milk, straight from the farm. Alongside the vending machine is a self-service honesty shop - selling local eggs, bread, cakes, coffee machine and a recently installed milkshake station, where customers can help themselves to different flavours of milkshake syrups to add to their freshly bought milk – all available from 7am until 9pm.
“We are constantly looking to evolve our business and have been looking at a few other things to add.” - Scott Robinson, Milk Churn.
Support Provided by the FCW:
Milk Churn first approached Food Centre Wales at the start of 2020 before the pandemic hit and the Food Technologists have been able to assist right from the initial business idea. With the Food Centre able to provide support with assessing project viability, site design and process set up.
The dedication of the Milk Churn team and continued support from the Food Centre enabled the business able to launch during an extremely challenging time with full environmental health and legal product compliance. This has included development of their food safety management systems, documentation requirements as well as practical aspects of food processing.
Milk Churn have attended several online workshops including those on HACCP guidance and dairy diversification, as well as continued one to one advice and support from the food technologists.
“Food Centre Wales have been instrumental in the setting up of Milk Churn. Majorly from a paper work side of things, but also being a person at the end of the phone, or someone to reply to an email no matter how small or at times basic the question may be! Sarah and Mark also did a site visit pre covid to advise on location and work flow, which was a massive help. The help has been crucial for the business, with us having very little processing experience we were starting from a clean slate, and they have been excellent at guiding us through the various stages.” - Scott Robinson, Milk Churn.
Benefit of the Support:
Scott was fortunate to get in touch with Food Centre Wales early on in his business venture, before the lockdown. This enabled him to learn the correct procedures from day one, so he was sure he was producing a safe product.
“The support has made the difficult process of setting up a food business so much smoother and easier. It helped us push along and get through the process much quicker than if we were to do it alone. We continue to work with Food Centre Wales and they are always there to help with any queries even after opening they continue to provide excellent support and advice to the business.” - Scott Robinson, Milk Churn.
Feedback from the FCW:
“Scott and his family have been great clients to work with and have taken every opportunity to utilise the support offered by Food Centre Wales. They have managed to overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19 and diversified their dairy farm into a wonderful family business that they can be extremely proud of. I am privileged to have been involved and we are already looking at some exciting new projects to expand on their already great success.” – Sarah Ivens, Food Technologist Food Centre Wales
Pembrokeshire Beachfood Company was born out of Jonathan’s passion for creating quality seafood using local ingredients. Its origins are from a delightful beachside shack ‘Café Môr’, in Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire - from where all manner of delicious hot meals and snacks are served from Easter to September. Café Môr’ was the brainchild of Jonathan, who wanted to escape the daily office grind to amerce himself in a business that utilised his catering skills and enabled him to spend more time by the sea, which he loves.
In his element out in the fresh sea air, Jonathan collects all the seaweed he needs for creating his produce at nearby beaches. He then processes it all in his own food manufacturing unit, ready to go into the delicious food he creates. Having set-up in 2010, he successfully attended many large festivals and events during the first couple of years in business, but Café Môr’ finally anchored its roots in Freshwater West, which also happens to be Jonathans favourite beach - a dream come true! Café Môr quickly build a reputation for using the best local produce to create interesting and flavoursome meals, drawing in regular customers from all over.
“I love the sea and I’m so happy now to be working here doing what I love. My passion lies in creating delicious food, but it must be using the best local ingredients possible. I don’t want to just make food, I want to make exceptional food that is full of flavour and makes people go ‘wow’”
In 2012 Jonathan started to create products for sale to delis and farm shops, which quickly expanded to the likes of M&S, who snapped up his ‘ships biscuits’ as part of their ‘Best of British range.
Going to events such as the Speciality and Fine food Fair and Lunch, helped orders come in from all over the UK and worldwide. Exporting has helped their business grow further, with events like Taste Wales in 2017 generating orders worldwide, including Sweden, Nigeria and America.
Support Provided by the FCW:
Food Centre Wales first helped Pembrokeshire Beachfood in 2010, following a referral from Landsker who were helping Jonathan set up his new venture. At the time, it was cake production and shelf life of cakes, that he needed assistance with. As his business grew, this quickly moved onto new product development of the ships biscuits, recipe reformulation and help with establishing consistent production methods. Over the coming years new flavours were also introduced and Food Centre wales were there to help with each process.
In 2012, Jonathan won a competition to supply the Olympics with 20,000 wraps. The team at Food Centre Wales assisted him to get the production of them set-up in the centres very own food processing areas.
“We were lucky to be able to hire the processing rooms at Food Centre Wales to produce the wraps for the Olympics. Having been let down by a company with only a few weeks to go, they took the stress away from organising the production to meet the order. I’m not sure what we would have done if they were not there to help”
Food centre Wales has helped Jonathan through a large range of services, including Product Specification, New Product Development, process design, HACCP and micro testing. The team of technologists also conducted nutritional analysis and ingredient listings for the labelling of the different products created, to ensure they followed all the legal requirements and regulations.
“Food centre Wales really is a one-stop-shop for everything you need to help you with food manufacturing. Not only can they help you develop your products, but they have such a wealth of knowledge that they pass onto you, it really is invaluable to my business. Even now, if I have a problem, I know I can phone them up and they will help me with solutions”
The latest creation ’Kelchup’, which is a seaweed ketchup, was developed with help from Food Centre Wales. The first batch at the end of 2017 was very popular and surpassed expectations as it flew off the shelves! A more regular production supply is expected in the imminent future.
Benefit of the Support:
Jonathan was fortunate to be told about Food Centre Wales early on in his business venture. This enabled him to learn and master the correct processing systems from day one, so he was sure he was producing his food products safely and efficiently from the beginning.
“I was very much approaching this as chief at the start, with me creating things without measuring most ingredients. At Food Centre Wales I learnt the importance of consistency, so became scrupulous at measuring everything and using the exact same process each time I created dish. This certainly set me in good stead for producing our products commercially”
Food Centre Wales assisted Jonathan with many products. He has gone from producing in his mum’s kitchen using a Rayburn, to having his very own commercial processing facility. The Food Technologists have given support and advice along the way and he has benefited from having their knowledge and expertise to help him on that journey.
The most recent new product development has been funded through Project HELIX, which is a WG initiative delivered by Food Innovation Wales under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development Fund. Had this support not been available at Food Centre Wales, the Company would have needed to go to a manufacturer directly to have the product developed for production.
“I’m not quite sure what I would’ve done if I hadn’t had help from Food Centre Wales. I know it would have taken me so much longer to get to where I am now and I probably wouldn’t be supplying M&S as I just wouldn’t have been up to speed commercially without their help. I have been very fortunate that Food Centre Wales has been able to provide me with so much support and knowledge, which is just on my door step.”
Having the development work funded through the HELIX project has enabled Pembrokeshire Beachfood to develop the new product with little financial investment. They can now utilise those finances more effectively on promoting the product to an even wider audience.
Jonathan continues to ensure all the food created by the company is locally sources and of the best quality available. Having experienced large growth over the last few years he intends to spend the immediate future re-evaluating the business and ensuring everything is running efficiently. Focus will be on promoting and building customers for their existing products.
Jonathan has started to work towards achieving SALSA, but is also exploring more co-production options, so he can focus on his passion for creating their delicious food at Café Mor.
He is by no means putting his feet up though, as he has spent the winter refurbishing a boat and fitting it out to soon be revealed as the new ‘Café Môr’. The project will be completed to be launched for the start of the season at Easter.
'Natural, sustainable and delicious food from West Wales'
Bug Farm Foods was born from a shared passion for innovation, science, the environment and delicious food. Chef Andy Holcroft and entomologist (insect scientist) Dr Sarah Beynon have come together to develop a new generation of delicious, insect-based foods that are good for you and good for the environment.
The journey began in 2013 when Sarah and Andy, who are both experts in their fields, bought back Sarah’s old family farm, Lower Harglodd, on the outskirts of St Davids, Pembrokeshire. A year of renovation works led to Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm (or ‘The Bug Farm’) opening as a research centre, working farm and visitor attraction showcasing their passion for sustainable agriculture and delicious food. Sarah’s research in sustainable food production and, in particular, entomophagy (the eating of insects) inspired Andy to experiment with new recipes using insects, with the aim of replacing traditional meat products with insects. Their whole philosophy is to develop foods using more sustainable ingredients that will also provide you with more nutritional value, including higher protein content, omega 3 and amino acids. These trials soon evolved into dishes on the menu in Andy’s restaurant ‘Grub Kitchen’ at The Bug Farm, the first full-time entomophagy restaurant in the UK.
Three years on and the Bug Farm is an award-winning attraction and academic centre of excellence, winning the Best Start-Up Business of the Year in 2016 and the Sustainable/CSR/Green Business of the Year in Wales in 2017. Grub Kitchen is also busy scooping awards in its own right, winning the Innovative Business of the Year for Wales award in 2017.
Following a programme commissioned by the BBC called ‘The Bug Grub Couple’ (aired in August and December 2017), they started to develop their Cricket Cookies under their new Bug Farm Foods brand. The aim was to create a cookie that gave consumers an easy way in to including insect protein in their diets.The development of their Cricket Cookies from kitchen to food manufacturing was a big step, but one that has been very successful. The programme helped raise the profile of the business further and the new Cricket Cookies have been very popular, particularly with the gifting market.
Support Provided by the FCW:
Tasked with developing the Cricket Cookies into a commercially viable product, Andy and Sarah contacted Food Centre Wales for help. Firstly the Food Technologists worked with Andy to re-formulate the recipe ingredients to create a product that could be produced on a larger scale. Once the recipe was up-scaled for small scale manufacture, the process of making the cookies was developed. As Andy had been making the cookies by hand in small batches until now, this was not commercially viable for a larger scale production. The Food Technologist adapted an existing machine to help with automating the cookie cutting process and increase the production times.
“Plunging into food production was initially very nerve wracking mainly because we wanted to do it properly. However, the support and guidance from Food Centre Wales was fantastic and totally put our minds a rest. We had the peace of mind that we were doing it properly from day one and that we weren’t making any mistakes.”
The Food technologists helped with HACCP and becoming registered with the Council Environmental Health Officer. Once the product was developed they have also done microbiological nutritionals, shelf life testing and calculations for labelling.
“The Food Technologists at Food Centre Wales have really mentored us throughout the whole process and passed on their knowledge to us so we are confident in utilising the new skills we have learnt from them. Their support has been invaluable and if we have a problem or want to know something, we can just pick up the phone and ask them.”
Benefit of the Support:
All the support The Bug Farm have received to develop the Cricket Cookies and get them into the marketplace has been funded through Project HELIX, which is a Welsh Government initiative delivered by Food Innovation Wales under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development Fund. Had this support not been available at Food Centre Wales, the company would have needed to fund the new venture themselves.
“We are a small business start-up and did not have the capital to invest in developing, testing and setting up the processing. Also, we were not experienced at manufacturing, so we did not have the knowledge needed to progress with the idea. Had we not been able to go to Food Centre Wales for support we would have spent a fortune on consultants and we would have had to risk investing more money into another experimental venture, which we probably would not have done”.
The support offered by Food Centre Wales has enabled Bug Farm Foods to get off the ground. They have been able to learn everything they need to know about running their food processing business and have had the peace of mind that someone is at the end of the phone if they need additional support.
Since then, the couple have successfully secured more funding through the Welsh Government and Innovate UK SBRI project to develop food products containing insect protein for consumption in schools, to reduce salt, sugar and saturated fat in children’s diets. This funding is also enabling the business to expand and build its own R&D facilities onsite at the farm, which will enable them to develop more new products to add to their Bug Farm Foods range.
The Food Technologists from Food Centre Wales are assisting them with the layout of the new factory and sourcing the equipment required. Once completed, they will also help with HACCP and getting the facilities ready for approval by the council Environmental Health Officer.
Sarah and Andy have lots of ideas for products they would like to explore and they intend to continue to expand the Bug Farm Foods product range in the future.
Established in 2000 as a group of four Welsh Organic Farmers selling milk to local people, the co-operative now have many family farms. Their business ethos strongly believes in keeping things simple. The cows graze clover rich organic pastures that have not been treated with sprays or chemicals. They also have plenty of exercise and fresh air out in the field and when they are read, they milk them themselves. Calon Wen pays its farmers for the quality as well as the quantity of milk they produce, which means the farmers are not pushed towards high yielding systems.
Calon Wen also started to produce a range of dairy products in 2003 with the organic milk from their farms. Starting with butter, they now also make cheese and frozen yogurt. The Company creates products and utilises external processing companies to manufacture the products on their behalf.
Calon Wen is now a leading brand in Wales, supplying Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s & Waitrose, with their products also available in many independent retailers across Wales.
Support Provided by the FCW:
Calon Wen first contacted Food Centre Wales in 2016 when they wanted to develop their own organic cheese. Food Centre Wales assigned their specialist Cheese Making Technologist to assist Calon wen with their product development. Food Centre Wales developed the new Preseli Blue Cheese product for Calon Wen and underwent numerous trails to prefect the recipe and processes for them.
‘We have been very fortunate that Food Centre Wales has not only had the commercial dairy facilities to develop our cheese product, but also the knowledge and expertise of the Food Technologists, who have developed the cheese and trained people to make it for us’
The Food Technologists then spend time training their chosen manufacturer, Bodnant Welsh Food Centre in North Wales, in the cheese making process and ensuring that they could successfully replicate the product for them. The new cheese called ‘Preseli Blue’ has now been trademarked and is due to be on supermarket shelves early in 2018.
Benefit of the Support:
The new product development has been funded through Project HELIX, which is a WG initiative delivered by Food Innovation Wales under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development Fund. Had this support not been available at Food Centre Wales, the Company would have needed to go to a cheese manufacturer directly to have the product developed for production.
‘It would not have been as easy to develop the blue cheese as we wouldn’t have had so much control over the recipe if we had gone elsewhere. We also like that we are not ‘tied’ to a certain manufacturer now as the recipe for the cheese is ours, we can choose the best manufacturer to produce it for us’
Having this work funded through the HELIX project has enabled Calon Wen to develop the new product with little financial investment. They can now utilise those finances more effectively on getting the product to market and promoting the product to a wider audience.
Food Centre Wales is currently assisting Calon Wen with Supplier Assurance, to ensure a more efficient and consistent production of their new cheese product. This assistance is also funded through Project HELIX, which aims to improve the efficiency of food manufacturing systems in small and medium sized companies.
Calon Wen will continue to experiment with flavours and hopes to develop more new dairy products in the near future.
From its humble beginnings, Welsh Charcuteriers, Cwm Farm are busier than ever fulfilling orders for the likes of Selfridges and exporting their goods to Canada. Considering the owners, Ruth and Andrew Davies, initially stocked the farm with only two in pig gilts with the intention of producing their own pork and sausages, the fact they have grown into a fully operational charcuterie business in under 6 years is quite impressive.
‘You have to be dedicated if you want to work in the food manufacturing industry, you need to be passionate and be prepared to put in the work; so don’t expect it to happen overnight!’
The venture began in 2010 when the owners, Carpenter Andrew Davies and his school administrator wife Ruth, bought Cwm Farm at Rhydyfro near Pontardawe. The couple were pioneers in the idea of using their own produce on their ‘Poachers Pantry’ catering wagon and the fan club for their products began. The award winning sausages and burgers were so popular the couple decided to expand their production and sell the meat from their growing herd of Saddleback and Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs.
It comes as no surprise that since then, their products have won many prizes, a Gold Star for their fresh laver bread sausages at the 2015 Great Taste Awards and their laver bread salami was awarded first place by Rosemary Shrager at the Great British Farm Produce Awards. Their products have even received the Royal seal of approval, when Christmas hampers were ordered last year to be sent to Highgrove for HRH Prince Charles! Ruth even received a thank you letter from Buckingham Palace.
Following a flurry of orders after meeting buyers from around the globe at the Taste Wales event held in March 2017 by Welsh Government, they have recently signed as a main supplier with Selfridges. They plan to sell throughout the UK in their ‘grab and go’ products section, with a big product launch with Selfridges planned for the end of August. Further afield, a Canadian buyer has recently exported the laver bread to promote the products at delis and shops across Canada. The feedback so far has been excellent and they will be flying Ruth out there soon to meet buyers!
Support Provided by the FCW:
Following a fact-finding trip to Denmark in 2013, Ruth decided she was going to make salami and beer sticks. She was signposted to Food Centre Wales to help her with the next step. Ruth received butchery training at the centre first to hone her skills even further. Over the 18 months she was there, Ruth received technical advice and product development support from the Food Technologists at the centre.
“I can remember worrying and thinking, how am I going to do this? But as soon as I arrived at Food Centre Wales, I felt at ease, I wasn’t on my own and I knew I had help and support, which made all the difference”
During this time, three varieties of snack salami were created – laver-bread, traditional paprika, and Moroccan spice; with the laver bread salami sticks being their most popular product to date.
Benefit of the Support:
Ruth was able to received help throughout the whole process of gaining new skills to developing the new products ready for market. It enabled her to utilise the facilities and equipment at the centre without having to make the large outlay for her own facilities. This has enabled her to grow her business before having to develop a production facility of her own.
“You would never do it on your own, salami is a high risk and you need to get it right from day one to sell to the public. I believe that working in Food Centre Wales, developing my product, the help I had with HACCP were so important in making sure I got into good habits from the beginning. I would definitely send people here if they want to go into it.”
Ruth went on to develop her own factory near her home in Pontardawe. Food Technologists from FCW assisted in the layout of the factory and also in sourcing the correct equipment that they needed to produce her products efficiently.
‘We wouldn’t be doing this today if we hadn’t had help from the Food Technologists at Food Centre Wales as they helped us get it right from day one. They will help and support you and teach you the right way to process foods, so that you are following all the health and safety standards. The help and support they gave us in developing our products and laying out our factory was invaluable’
From their factory on Pontardawe, Cwm Farm plans to continue with flavour development, with the introduction of a Leek and Black Garlic Salami launched this year. They are even processing Margam Park Venison and looking into other meats they can process into delicious new products.
Having been approached by leading supermarkets they are currently working towards achieving SALSA.
The Wickedly Welsh Chocolate Company was born out of Karen and Mark’s passion for delicious tasty chocolate and fun. Their talented and enthusiastic team produce a range of high quality and contemporary, hand-crafted chocolates from their artisan factory in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, which also houses their exciting and unique visitor centre.
Karen trained as a chocolatier whilst she was a University student, she developed a keen interest in all things chocolate but also enjoyed other areas of the business particularly sales and marketing. This led her into a career as an account manager which she did for over 15 years, during which time she met her husband, Mark. Mark trained as a mechanical engineer in his home country of Ireland but came to the UK in his early twenties to broaden his experience. He also developed a passion for sales and marketing and enjoyed a successful career selling in several different industries including IT and Telecommunications.
When Karen and Mark married and started their family, several tragic events combined with the pressures of 2 corporate careers made them re-evaluate things. They considered several ideas but having discovered a gap in the tourism and chocolate market in Karen’s home county of Pembrokeshire, they decided to sell their home and move their young family to West Wales. Their plan was to develop a modern Welsh chocolate company, creating exciting new flavours and sharing their passion for making chocolate with all those who visit. They found a building in Haverfordwest and spent 6 months renovating it using the proceeds from the sale of their house! A lot was riding on this venture, but the gamble paid off and Wickedly Welsh Chocolate opened its doors in April 2014 to 1500 visitors on day one alone!
Four years on and the factory and demonstration areas have proved very popular with over 45,000 people visiting every year to learn about how chocolate is made and have a go themselves. During this time the awards have rolled in too, including Best New Start up, Most Exciting New Business and Best New Tourism Business.
The company now boasts a delicious range of chocolates and has even developed its own range of speciality chocolates with health benefits for diabetes and high blood pressure. They have exhibited at trade fairs throughout the UK including Speciality and Fine Foods, Taste Wales and Food Matters Live, generating orders and building exciting sales opportunities. In 2017, they won 5 Great Taste Awards, making them second to only one other chocolate company in the world for the most Great Taste Awards achieved.
Support Provided by the FCW:
Prior to the launch of Wickedly Welsh Chocolate in April 2014, the team received Level 2 Award in Food Safety training at Food Centre Wales. The one day training course was delivered at Food Centre Wales by one of the qualified tutors, who are also Food Technologists at the centre, with the exam held at the end of the day.
Following the successful launch of the company, the Wickedly Welsh Chocolate range grew considerably and they were supplying many small retailers throughout Wales. In March 2017, the company exhibited their range at the ‘Taste Wales’ event in Celtic Manor and received a lot of interest from larger retailers and catering companies who require their suppliers to have SALSA (Safe And Local Supplier Approval) Accreditation. Mark and Karen quickly identified the need to get SALSA to further develop their business and decided to take guidance offered by Food Centre Wales. The Food Technologists started to work with them by conducting a gap analysis of all their processes and procedures to identify the areas they needed to work on to achieve the SALSA Accreditation.
“We didn’t realise until speaking to Food Centre Wales at the event, that we could get help with this process through Project HELIX, so we decided to take them up on this instead of trying to do it on our own. The Food Technologists have really helped us understand what is required to achieve SALSA. They have explained clearly what needs to be done and also help with mentoring and training throughout the process to ensure we achieve SALSA.”
The food technologists also delivered a full day HACCP training session for the whole team at the factory, to ensure they were all knowledgeable on HACCP processes and confident to put them into practise. Receiving the HACCP training from Food Centre Wales onsite enabled staff to learn in their own working environment, making it easier to apply the HACCP principals to their own processes and procedures, it also meant they did not have the extra expense of staff travelling off-site.
Benefit of the Support:
The third party accreditation mentoring and support has been funded through Project HELIX, which is a Welsh Government initiative delivered by Food Innovation Wales under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development Fund. Had this support not been available at Food Centre Wales, the Company would have had to navigate the SALSA scheme themselves, making it considerably more challenging to gain the all-important accreditation.
“Having the Food Technologists has been so beneficial for us. To have someone experienced explain where the gaps are, but also teach you how to fill those gaps has been so much easier than doing it all ourselves. They have really mentored us through the whole process and I’m grateful that we have been able to take advantage of this local, expert support, enabling us to get the process done quickly and professionally.”
Achieving SALSA Accreditation will enable Wickedly Welsh Chocolate to continue its growth plans, reaching new markets sectors and opening up larger opportunities. Project HELIX also funded the HACCP training under ‘Knowledge Transfer’, which meant the business was able to upskill its staff and involve them all in achieving SALSA standards without having to fund it themselves.
Wickedly Welsh Chocolate will complete the SALSA accreditation shortly. The plan is to maintain the brand as a producer of premium handmade Welsh chocolates and focus on speciality retailers whose customers are happy to pay for a premium crafted product.
“We will definitely maintain our working relationship with Food Centre Wales as part of our external network of business support and welcome any guidance they can offer us in the future development of our business”
Karen and Mark are well on their way to achieving their 5 year business targets and are excited about continuing to develop the brand whilst working on new and varied opportunities. They plan to encourage their own children to get involved in the business as they grow up, enabling them to develop their own work skills and to keep it as a thriving family business for many years to come.
The Little Welsh Deli is a family run business based in Llanelli, who specialise in producing a selection of handmade pasties and tray bake cakes. From its humble beginnings in the husband and wife teams’ home kitchen, the business has expanded into its very own production facility to keep up with the demand for their delicious pasties. What started as a hobby making cakes and selling at Farmers Markets, the introduction of their homemade pasties took them into a much bigger market.
“We stumbled upon the idea of making pasties by chance. Clare made a load one weekend for a Farmers Market and they sold out straight away! So, we thought perhaps we should make some more, and so we did…”
The popularity of their pasties at Farmers Markets and Food Festivals all over Wales grew the business to the point where they had outgrown their catering kitchen in the cellar at home and they needed to have a rethink. As a former nurse, Clare was used to the long hours needed to develop and grow the business and when her husband Ryan was made redundant it was the perfect time to develop the business to the next stage.
They moved to their own unit in Llanelli last year and can now produce 2500-4000 pasties a week as well as supply Castle Howell with their tray bake cakes. The couple both work full time on their business and employ their niece, son and a friend to help them, so it’s a small friendly team and luckily they all enjoy working together!
Their pasties can be bought in garages, coffee shops and caravan parks all across South and West wales, as well as supplying Cardiff Airport and Swansea University.
Support Provided by the FCW:
They first contacted Food Centre wales in 2015 as they had outgrown their kitchens and equipment at home and needed to look for somewhere to make their pasties. They came a cross FCW online and at first they did not realise the extent of the facilities available at the centre.
“I remember looking around the Food Centre production areas for the first time and seeing all the equipment and thinking, oh my, how do we go from our kitchens at home to this!!”
The food technologists at the centre helped them to replicate their processes on a much larger scale using the commercial equipment at the centre. They also received help with HACCP to ensure all their systems followed food safety protocol. They used the facilities to make their pasty fillings and also to mix the pastry. Once they had perfected their recipe for upscaling they would arrive at the centre once a week to spend a day using the production facilities onsite.
During the 18 months they were processing at the centre and taking on board advice, they gradually changed their production methods to enable them to increase their capacity.
“Eventually we had most of our ingredients delivered at the centre, including pre-cut vegetables such as onions, instead of doing it all ourselves. We also got our systems fined tuned and were able to produce up to 6 different fillings on one day”
Following a successful grant application, they started to look for their own production facilities closer to home. They were astute in their search for equipment and managed to finance the rest of the development themselves.
Benefit of the Support:
The Little Welsh Deli was able to practise and hone their production methods whilst using the Food Centre. They could test their systems without having to invest heavily in more new equipment, allowing the business to grow without accruing dept. The Food Technologists were always on hand at FCW to train them in the use of equipment and offer advice to help the process run smoothly. FCW helped with HACCP, to ensure they were utilising the correct procedures from the beginning, which has enabled them to adopt effective systems for setting up their own production facility.
“We would not be here now had we not come to Food Centre Wales as it was the stepping stone we needed to reach the next level in our production. We were able to use the facilities and equipment to increase our production, which led to our business developing into a full time food production business”
Overall, by utilising FCW facilities for 18 months, this has helped the business flourish and enabled them to finance the next stage of development with the help of the grant they received. They have been able to grow at a steady pace and increase their workforce to fulfil the growing demand for their products.
Having successfully taken part in a tasting session with a leading supermarket buyer, the next step is for them to achieve SALSA (Safe And Local Supplier Approval), which will enable them to supply the supermarket.
The Food Technologists from Food Centre Wales will be helping in identifying what additional documentation they require to achieve the accreditation and then assisting them to produce those policies, procedures and records. Additional assistance will be given to ensure ongoing maintenance and compliance for future audits.
“It’s difficult to find the time to go through SALSA when you are so busy with production, so it will definitely help that we will have support in achieving this with guidance from Food Centre Wales, rather than trying to do it ourselves”.
Increases in production also bring with them the issue of capacity and they are currently looking at adding in more automation into their production by introducing a crimping press for their pasties, which are currently all hand crimped. This would enable them to increase capacity and fulfil even larger orders in the future.
Tan Y Castell Bakery is the creation of Paul and Linda Mear. Paul started producing the famous Welshcakes at the family farm using an old Aga and then selling them to local shops around his farm.
Once Paul had enough capital, the couple then moved the business into an old cottage and set up a kitchen to meet demand as they were now selling to guest houses, cafes, restaurants and hotels. Again, demand began to outstrip supply and space was becoming increasingly limited. Paul found a unit in Narberth in a small business park not far from where he was living. During this time Paul was covering two jobs, one lecturing at a local college, the other making Welshcakes to the early hours of the morning.
A local supermarket became interested and asked Paul to supply some stores in Wales. Today, Tan Y Castell has two large purpose-built bakeries spread over 6 industrial units and employs over 40 full-time staff. Over 20 years of hard work and late nights have now paid off as we are one of the most recognised and respected bakeries in Wales and we make the best-selling Welshcakes on the market! They are a very proud BRC grade AA accredited food manufacturer producing the absolute highest quality baked goods. From starting with one product, they now have an extensive product range with over 15 different products including our original traditional Welshcakes and modern and tasty Griddle ranges, our award-winning Bara Brith and our all butter Welsh shortbread range. Their products can be purchased from most of the major supermarkets with other customers including county councils, national wholesalers, rail companies, airports, hotels, high-end motor companies and Fortnum and Mason to name but a few.
Support Provided by the FCW:
Tan y Castell has received ongoing support from Food Centre Wales of the last 10 years. They have undergone a couple of development projects at the centre. The first was mainly focussed on extending the shelf life of one of their products to enable them to reach new markets. The Food Technologist at the centre worked with them to reformulate their recipe to increase the shelf life of one of their Barabrith products.
‘We spend a couple of weeks at the centre, receiving support from the Food Technologist, in helping us as we were struggling to extend the shelf life of the product at the time. We are lucky to have access to such facilities and expertise close by. Her knowledge and access to the equipment there was instrumental in developing the new products’
When the company decided to expand its product range further and develop Gluten free products, Food Centre Wales was their first point of call. The Food Technologists helped them to source all the raw materials they needed to develop their products. They also underwent a series of trials of the new gluten free shortbreads at Food Centre Wales. The Food Technologists assisted them in developing their new product and perfecting the recipes ready for production. This enabled them to utilise the facilities without interrupting their already busy production factories.
Furthermore, when BRC changed their guidelines a few years ago, Food Centre Wales assisted them in understanding the guidelines and putting in processes to ensure they would meet the new guidelines.
Benefit of the Support:
The Food Technologists from Food Centre Wales have offered ongoing support to Tan y Castell Welshcakes as and when required. They have utilised the development and processing facilities on numerous occasions, which has meant it has not interrupted with their everyday production.
‘We have been fortunate to have the help and advice from the Food Technologists at Food Centre Wales over the years. It’s been very beneficial for us to be able to discuss our ideas or technical issues with someone who is not only very knowledgeable, but who also has experience in the industry’
By undergoing product development and reformulation at Food Centre Wales, it has enabled Tan y Castell to continue with their production as normal and they have not had any interruption in their output volumes. The help from Food Technologists has enabled them to solve product issues quickly and efficiently. They have also been able to undergo this work in the confidence that their new ideas and development work is safe.
‘We are lucky we can ask Food Centre Wales questions anytime and be confident that they will not only have the answers but, most importantly for us, that we are treated with upmost confidentiality and we feel safe in speaking with the Food Technologists there’
Had they not received help from Food Centre Wales, they would have needed to seek help from other producers or consultants to conduct this work and this would have been more costly both financially and risk of confidentiality.
Although there are no immediate plans in the pipeline, Tan y Castell is planning to continue to grow their business in the future. They will continue to contact Food Centre Wales for support and advice as and when they require their help.