The baking industry in the north west is set to benefit from over £1m of government investment, which will be used to develop new products and boost production.

The North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA) has awarded grants to Bells of Lazonby, Peter Hunt’s and United Biscuits for a variety of projects in the region.

Bolton-based Peter Hunt’s has secured a £250,000 grant under the Grants for Business Investment (GBI) programme to invest in new equipment, enabling the savouries company to diversify into the £100m par-baked Continental pastries market.

The company believes it could gain 5% of this market within three years. David Wood, Peter Hunt’s MD, said: “The UK imports large quantities of freshly-baked croissants and Danish pastries, available in supermarket in-store bakeries. With the help of this NWDA grant, we will soon be producing high-quality products for this growing UK market from a new production line in Kearsley.”

Meanwhile, Cumbria-based Bells of Lazonby has secured a £480,000 grant from the NWDA under the Grants for Research and Development scheme. The money will be used to improve the nutritional value of ‘free-from’ products by cutting salt, fat and processed sugars and boosting fibre content over a three-year period. As part of the deal, Bells will also invest £1m-£1.5m.

Said Bells’ MD Michael Bell: “This project will bring the principles of thoughtful nutrition to free-from baked goods.”

United Biscuits has also benefited from a £425,000 GBI scheme investment at its Aintree factory, enabling the firm to increase the output of TUC crackers and to start manufacturing Jaffa Cake Bars.

The NWDA is funded by the government, via the Single Budget, and the EU via the European Regional Development Fund. Its budget for 2009/10 is £397m.