Making a success of a dog’s dinner: The £11m factory that could drive growth at Norfolk pet food firm Natures Menu

Natures Menu managing director, Craig Taylor, at the company's new factory and warehouse at Snettert

Natures Menu managing director, Craig Taylor, at the company's new factory and warehouse at Snetterton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Pet food manufacturer Natures Menu expects to create up to 50 new jobs over the next two years as it ramps up production with its new £11m factory.

Natures Menu owner, Craig Taylor, at his new factory and warehouse at Snetterton. Picture: DENISE BR

Natures Menu owner, Craig Taylor, at his new factory and warehouse at Snetterton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

The facility at Snetterton – chosen for its location along the A11 Norwich-Cambridge tech corridor – will allow the company to boost its output from 350 tonnes a week to more than 550 tonnes, which is then distributed and sold by the company across the UK and Europe.

The firm is also investing £3m at the plant in new technology, developed at its Watton base, which managing director Craig Taylor claims is a 'European first' and will help it break into new and as-yet-untapped markets.

'This is a massive step-change and it's a pivotal moment for the business,' said Mr Taylor.

'Watton has been our heritage and we are not leaving – it's a core production unit for us and will continue to be – but this will open up the capacity and facilities for us to compete.'

Natures Menu's new factory and warehouse under construction at Snetterton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Natures Menu's new factory and warehouse under construction at Snetterton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Six acres of the 10-acre site are currently being developed, with two storeys of manufacturing space, offices and warehousing all under one roof when the project is completed in August 2017.

The company, which employs 220 people across its existing Watton and Hingham facilities, hopes the Snetterton location will help to attract talent from Cambridge as Natures Menu bolsters its sales and marketing divisions.

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'We would like to open up Snetterton as the gateway to Norfolk,' he said.

'We have to think strategically. I believe Norwich and East Anglia as a whole is seeing a resurgence, with more people coming back to the area and seeing it as an employment area, and that could give us access to better talent.'

Natures Menu's new factory and warehouse under construction at Snetterton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Natures Menu's new factory and warehouse under construction at Snetterton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Natures Menu specialises in raw food, which it says has health benefits for pets, but is looking to invest in food technology experts and innovation as it looks to claim a bigger slice of a UK pet food sector worth more than £2.6bn a year.

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership has awarded a grant of £500,000 to the project from its Growing Business Fund, following on from a grant of £127,500 in 2014 which created 13 jobs.

The latest grant will be put towards machinery for the production line, racking, and computers and telecoms. Barclays has also provided financial support Mr Taylor said had been 'essential' to the company's investment.

Chris Starkie, managing director of the LEP, said: 'Natures Menu provide a great example of how the Growing Business Fund can help drive growth, improve productivity and create jobs in the East.

Natures Menu owner, Craig Taylor, left, and site manager for SEH French Construction, part of One Gr

Natures Menu owner, Craig Taylor, left, and site manager for SEH French Construction, part of One Group, Alan Brown, inside the new factory and warehouse at Snetterton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

'The company's new site and facilities put them at the leading edge of their industry, providing sustainability and creating more than 60 new jobs within the zone of the Cambridge-Norwich tech corridor – a crucial area for the region's future economic growth.'

Natures Menu turned over £25.5m in the year to the end of March 2016, up from £19.6m the year before, with pre-tax profits slipping from £1.2m to £830,000 because an increased management charge to parent company Anexhold.

Anexhold saw pre-tax profits rise from £1.6m to £3.6m for the same period.

For more on this story, see page 4.

Does your business have big plans for 2017? Email mark.shields@archant.co.uk

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