Norwich firm has growing ambition for the fruit and vegetable market

Valerie Watson-Brown of Fresh Pod with one of the cold filtration units with Mick Grossman of ComTek

Valerie Watson-Brown of Fresh Pod with one of the cold filtration units with Mick Grossman of ComTek where the units are manufactured. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

A Norwich-based business is looking to establish a distribution and agent network across Europe as it targets further expansion into the fresh fruit and vegetable market.

Fresh Pod, which manufactures filtration devices to prolong the life of flowers, vegetables and fruit, has travelled to Berlin this week to begin boosting its brand at Fruit Logistica – the world's biggest fruit and vegetable trade fair.

It comes after Valerie Watson-Brown, director, bought out the company last year and invested £50,000 in developing large store filtration machines for the commercial market, which are now manufactured at ComTek in Thetford.

Ms Watson-Brown said the firm was on course to doubling its £60,000 turnover this year as they establish each European distributor.

She said: 'I met with the UKTI and realised that we had to do more business in the EU because of the sector we are in.

'Because of the climate in the UK, a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables are imported, and so we decided that the UK could not be our only market – we realised we were cornering ourselves a bit.'

She added: 'The language barrier is the biggest challenge, and we have already had our marketing materials translated into Dutch, but we haven't fully-established which EU market we want to target specifically yet because they are all growing something.'

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Fresh Pod products aim to keep flowers, fruit and vegetables fresher for weeks longer by filtering the ethylene from the air that causes them to rot.

Currently, the firm based on Yarmouth Road is targeting both the consumer and commercial market, with Fresh Pod capsules produced for family fridges, cold store filtration machines for farm warehouses and EC-Filters for shipping containers.

So far, the company, which was founded in America and employs seven staff, but moved to the UK, has sold 22 cold-store filtration machines since launching the UK manufacturing process three months ago, with a target to sell 50 by the end of this year.

But as well as building a viable business, Ms Watson-Brown is keen for the products to serve an environmental purpose.

'With 50pc of the food in the world wasted, the use of ethylene control products to reduce wastage is a key element in the fresh fruit, vegetable and flora chain,' she said.

'The need to reduce waste from grower through to end user – the consumer – is heightened by the need to control costs in an uncertain economic environment.'

The Fresh Pod technology has been established in America for the past 20 years with the US Navy using the devices to prolong the storage of food.

Meanwhile, farmers across the East have also been purchasing the devices to help boost the shelf-life of their products.

Cabbage and cauliflower-supplier Lankfer, based near Wisbech, said the Fresh Pod had helped give them more control over the supply chain.

Lee Parker, Lankfer commercial director, said: 'We have known for a while that ethylene is a major contributor to the shortening of storage periods with our savoy cabbages.

'We have tried several methods to slow the process with little success to date. We have tested out Fresh Pod in one of our store rooms with superb results.

'We have been able to supply our customers with an English cabbage for an extended period of eight weeks, giving us more control over the supply chain, part of which is to be able to remove the need to rely on a foreign source.'