Frank Dale Foods set for liquidation after failing to keep up with orders influx

Nigel Cushion, company director at Frank Dale Foods. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Nigel Cushion, company director at Frank Dale Foods. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A south Norfolk family food firm is set to go into liquidation after failing to keep pace with a mounting order book in a 'disastrous' 2016.

Frank Dale Foods Ltd is set to appoint a liquidator at a creditors' meeting next week if a purchaser for the £4.8m-turnover company cannot be found.

Despite healthy results in the preceding years, increasing pressure on production facilities and an unsuccessful attempt to break into the European market last year led to a £500,000 loss for 2016 and have left the future of the Bunwell-based firm and its 57 staff in jeopardy.

However, insolvency specialists are confident an agreement can be reached to save at least some jobs.

Company chairman Nigel Cushion said the Dale family had been left 'devastated' after a 'disastrous 2016 which capsized the business'.

He said: 'The smoke is only just clearing, but it was a combination of internal and external factors.

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'We were cracking on to develop the business in retail, airlines and export, so as we started 2016 we were optimistic.

'The major problem was that we were successful in a lot of our markets, but the business just did not cope and our labour and materials costs spiralled.'

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Mr Cushion said the issues stemmed from the party food producer's attempted move 'from kitchen table to board table'.

While it had invested in improving its 'personnel and back-room infrastructure', he said the initial outlay had not been recouped.

'We had a great brand but we had to try to mature the business to get it ready for the much bigger companies. We have probably moved too fast and been too successful in getting that work in, and not been able to fulfil it.

'We were trying to do something which it was ultimately proved we were not ready for.'

Mr Cushion said the company did not notice how dire the financial situation had become until the last three months of 2016, when the vast majority of its revenue ordinarily comes in. 'We basically had a crash where we could not cope with the sales we had won.'

Norwich-based insolvency specialists McTear Williams and Wood is acting for the company in negotiations with creditors, which are due to take place on February 28.

Partner Andrew McTear said Frank Dale Foods had a 'strong order book' going into 2016, but could 'not turn out the product efficiently'.

He said there has been interest from more than one party in taking on the company, with the possibility that both its Bunwell factory and the majority of jobs could be saved.

Mr Cushion added: 'We are working hard to ensure there is a future for as many of our staff as possible.'

Established in 1994, Frank Dale Foods manufactures premium party food for customers around the UK, specialising in ready-to-cook foodstuffs from quiches and canapés to fruit pies.

The company holds many national awards and provided products for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Its European foray last year saw it take miniature pies to Germany, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries.

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