King’s Lynn engineering firm Polar Systems hopes to pop into US and European markets
- Credit: Ian Burt
A Norfolk engineering firm is aiming to be top of the pops in the snacking industry as it targets overseas growth.
Polar Systems, based on the Hardwick Industrial Estate in King's Lynn, builds equipment capable of popping 500kg of popcorn an hour as well as machinery for the shellfish and snacking industries.
Now it has the US and Europe in its sights as it seeks to follow the growing market for popcorn – which in the UK alone more than doubled from £50m to £129m between 2010 and 2015.
Adrian Gamble, whose father Peter Gamble launched the business in 1986, said a new design for cooking popcorn on an industrial scale had proved popular in Europe and the firm was now hoping to take it across the pond.
He said: 'We have a new cooker which is patent pending and is changing the way popcorn is made. There is only one other company which does what we are doing and they are based in America so we want to take them on on their own turf.'
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The snack market has been growing for Polar Systems, which turns over around £6m, and Mr Gamble said flavouring systems, for popcorn, crisps and nuts, was an area of development for the company. Although the company, which now employs around 65 people, started off serving the local shellfish industry it now has clients across the world, from Argentina to Australia.
'We are now focusing outside the UK more,' Mr Gamble said. 'In the last couple of years we have seen about a 25% increase in our sales. We have had a lot of expansion and brought in new people.
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'We have tried very hard to develop machinery which we can sell repeatedly as well as developing specific equipment for customers.'
With the company aiming to generate more European trade Mr Gamble went to an international snack food trade show, in Vienna, for the first time.
The Brexit-hit pound has helped make the firm's prices more competitive on the continent and overseas sales make up around 30% of sales for the business.
Mr Gamble said: 'With the pound in such a weak position it makes us very attractive to our European neighbours. Costs of parts obviously increase but we are aiming to make up for that by designing our own machinery which we can add a premium to.'