A leading food company, based in County Durham, which supplies the UK’s major supermarket chains and retailers with cakes, is expanding in a highly competitive market and planning a move into Europe.

Grange Mill Foods, based at Seaham, currently produces 50 tons of cake, muffins and tray-bakes every week and is planning to increase that to 80 tons per week over the next two years.

With support from Business Link in the County Durham and East Durham Business Service, the company has been expanding steadily. In the past 18 months, it has created an additional 25 jobs, well ahead of the projected figure of 26 new jobs in three years, bringing the total workforce to 48. It has also added 7,500sq ft to its existing 10,000sq ft premises and invested heavily in plant and equipment.

"We have virtually doubled production capacity in the past six months," says MD Reza Rezaei, "and we are poised to exploit the potential of new markets and significant new products.

"Recently, we created a new corporate image for the company and established a training and learning centre for employees, using Neighbourhood Renewal Funding through the East Durham Business Service. Business Link in County Durham has helped us with a number of different business projects and the support we have been given has had a great impact," he adds.

Grange Mill Foods invests heavily in the research and development of new products. Special recipes have been developed that are low in sugar and fat, gluten-free or suitable for diabetics. Labelling, packaging and the trend for healthier eating are all viewed as important.

export advice

Peter Rippingale, Business Link account manager based at the East Durham Business Service, helped the company with its recent £500,000 expansion project. He was also able to link the company into advice on exporting from UK Trade and Investment.

"In recent years, we have advised the company on improving its IT and management accounting systems, on workforce development and training and with marketing and packaging," he says. "Grange Mill has been able to access consultants and expertise in all these areas."

"As well as developing our UK market, there is massive potential in Europe for us," says Reza Rezaei, "and we plan to take part in a major trade exhibition in the Netherlands in February. We need to remain innovative if we are to stay ahead of the competition." n