Hunger for canapes drives growth at Frank Dale Foods

Miniature desserts and party food have proved to be big business for a food manufacturer which is set to nearly double its turnover this year.

Frank Dale Foods, based in Bunwell, near Long Stratton, says it expects sales to rise to �3.5m by the end of this year, up from �1.9m last year after a huge increase in trade.

The firm manufactures some 100 different types of canap�s as well as mini quiches and other miniature savoury and sweet party food for wholesalers, including Costco, a US chain in the UK, Makro and Booker, as well as catering companies like Brakes, 3663 and Cater Force, which then supply hotels, restaurants and more.

Robert Dale, managing director, said: 'This year to date we've seen an increase of 70pc in sales in canap�s. In June and July this year sales were up more than 100pc.'

Mr Dale said he thinks the rise in sales is because of the cost to hotels and catering companies of making them themselves.

'It is more cost-effective to buy them from us than making them themselves,' he said. 'To replicate them and source the ingredients we use would be very hard.

'It's also easier for the chef. The chef likes to focus on the main meal and the starter, not the buffet food.'

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The firm has also found new customers and launched nearly 40 new lines this year alone.

As a result of the increase in work the firm has had to go through some growing pains.

The firm decided to focus on production with the help of the Institute for Manufacturing. New systems were brought in and specialist staff recruited.

But it was 'really showing the benefits' said Mr Dale. 'We have got a lot more in control of planning and production and become more efficient in our manufacturing and we have a lot more business systems in place.'

A new canap�-filling line machine is on order from a Hull manufacturer to be delivered later this month.

It will take potential canap� production from about 3,000 an hour to up to 12,000 an hour.

As it stands, the firm makes about 350,000 a week during peak periods like Christmas, and 200,000 a week during the course of the year.

Earlier this year the company, which employs 65, invested in a mini- tart line, made in Stoke on Trent, producing 7,200 mini-tarts in an hour, and in software to integrate its systems. The firm was a finalist in the Manufacturer of the Year best SME award at last week's Manufacturer awards.