Family-run business Bells of Lazonby has been presented with a prestigious Know- ledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) award, recognising its achieve- ments in category innovation.

Founded in 1975, a KTP project is a three-way partnership between: a company, which has a specific and strategic project; a knowledge base - an academic or research institution that has skills relevant to the project; and a high-calibre associate or recently qualified person, who works in the company on the project.

Bells of Lazonby, specialist manufacturer of organic, ’free-from’ and traditional craft bakery products entered into the three-year KTP with Manchester Metropolitan University in order to address three main objectives: to develop techniques for extending the shelf-life of products, develop a new range of gluten-free bakery products for the organic and non-organic markets, and to create a manufacturing environment that preserves the integrity of the storage, preparation and production of ingredients and processes required for the accreditation of products.

As a result of the KTP, the company is now able to evaluate and improve packaging systems, identify ways to extend product shelf-life, and have a greater understanding of modifications to product formulation. Key outputs of the KTP include the introduction of sensory analysis facilities and associated software, in order to identify changes in the quality of products, the results of which are used in presentations to existing and potential customers.

CCFRA software has also been introduced to predict the shelf-life of baked goods. These developments have enabled Bells to secure sales to major multiples, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

"The KTP experience has shaped a new approach for us - initially within the ’free-from’ arena but this has now extended across our business," says Bells of Lazonby managing director Michael Bell. "We now have a product development team of three and our process is born out of discussions with customers - through roadshows, events and exhibitions - from market research, market gap analysis and from relationships with concept developers at major UK retailers."

Perhaps most significant has been the successful launch of several new branded and own-label products, which include dairy and wheat-free sponges, low-fat gluten-free cereal bars, a range of pressed fruit bars and gluten-free cakes. From a nominal turnover before launching its new range in 2003, Bells of Lazonby now has annualised turnover of £2.5 million.

Presenting Bells with its winning KTP award, Minister of State for Industry and the Regions, Margaret Hodge, said: "When an idea is matched with a high potential business, the explosive effects spark a chain reaction to jobs, wealth and higher productivity. That is what Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are all about. KTP has given British firms new opportunities - to break into new technologies, new markets, new processes and production methodologies." n

? If you would like further information on the benefits offered by Knowledge Transfer Partnerships - a business support product of the DTI - visit [] or call 0870 190 2829 n