A cake manufacturer has seen turnover grow 65% after getting help from a knowledge transfer project.
South Wales business Just Love Food took on a new product development affiliate through the Project Helix Knowledge Transfer Programme, which employs part-funded technical or sales and marketing workers and embeds them in Welsh food and drink manufacturers.
Just Love Food was set up in 2010 by Mike Woods and sells allergy-friendly celebration cakes to UK retailers including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Waitrose.
In 2019, Woods saw an opportunity to further grow the business by specialising in vegan cakes, and approached the Zero2Five Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University for advice on expanding his firm’s technical capabilities.
Zero2Five works with food and drink companies to provide support in areas including factory design, start-up advice, NPD, food safety and security, labelling legislation and nutrition.
Zero2Five made Woods aware of the part-funded affiliates employed through the Project Helix Knowledge Transfer Programme. This was during the pandemic, at which time it would have been impossible for Woods to pay the full going rate for a technical expert.
“The knowledge transfer programme was very much a bridge that enabled us to grow the business in a difficult financial environment,” he explained.
In 2021, Just Love Foods recruited Justyna Borowska as a new product development affiliate. Borowska had five years’ experience in food manufacturing and had previously worked as a food technologist and quality technician for a bakery and cake manufacturer.
She works alongside Just Love Foods NPD manager Lisa Rogers and focuses on supplier technical compliance, risk-assessing ingredients for the presence of allergens.
“Since Justyna has been on board our turnover has grown by over 65% and it wouldn’t have been possible without those more robust technical structures in place,” said Woods.
Borowska, in turn, has developed new skills by working at Just Love Foods
“I’ve learnt a lot about the different stages of new product development and what retailers are looking for when they want to buy a product,” she said. “I’ve also learnt how important it is to produce cakes which are safe for people with allergies. It’s a difficult process, but it’s very rewarding.”
The Project Helix Knowledge Transfer Programme is funded through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.