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New £16m factory has ramped up Norfolk pet food producer's growth plans

The £3m freeze drying machine at Natures Menu's new factory. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The £3m freeze drying machine at Natures Menu's new factory. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

One of the largest investments on a single site in Norfolk in a decade, made by a homegrown pet food producer, is starting to reap rewards.

Salmon offcuts are one of the ingredients which go into Natures Menu's products. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYSalmon offcuts are one of the ingredients which go into Natures Menu's products. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Natures Menu began production at its £12.6m 
factory in Snetterton in October, with all staff moved over from its previous Watton headquarters by the end of 2017.

Factoring in machinery and other infrastructure costs, the total investment in the site was more than £16m.

Managing director Craig Taylor believes that over the next five years the new facility – the largest raw pet food factory in Europe – could help double the firm’s £40m turnover and grow its workforce, which has already increased from 70 to 220, helped in part by the move.

“At Watton we were making today to deliver tomorrow,” he said. “We chose this site because of the infrastructure and the location for logistics. Being on the A11 is a boost for us as a business that needs to get out of Norfolk.”

Natures Menu managing director Craig Taylor. Picture: ANTONY KELLYNatures Menu managing director Craig Taylor. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mr Taylor said the business will continue to reinvest in technology, education and brand awareness – in which cause alone it is investing £4.8m this year.

He added: “The pet food market is worth £2.8bn in the UK and is growing at 16% year-on-year. Our business has high double-digit growth and we want to continue to push those numbers.”

The centrepiece of the factory is a £3m freeze drying machine, which is used to preserve chunks of raw meat for use in dry food products. The company plans to eventually invest in another of these machines.

The facility has been designed with room to accommodate double the current level of operations, with a cold food store capable of holding 600 tonnes of raw materials and capacity to process 500 tonnes of product every week.

The factory has the capacity to process up to 500 tonnes of raw product a week. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe factory has the capacity to process up to 500 tonnes of raw product a week. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The firm has three warehouses in Bristol, Leeds and Scotland and a fleet of 70 vans which deliver around 1,000 orders a day.

Mr Taylor said Natures Menu’s export business is also growing, particularly in Germany and Scandinavia, areas which are “really into health and diet”.

Last week it was named among the Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200 companies, which recognises businesses with the fastest growing international sales.

Mr Taylor added that the changing shape of the pet food market – which has expanded over the past five years to include digital channels as 
well as grocers and independent pet stores – had benefited specialist businesses like his.

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