Demand for health snacks drives growth at wholefoods firm

Consumer demand for healthy snacks is helping to drive expansion at a long-established Yorkshire wholefoods supplier.

Country Products is now gearing up for growth with the help of a £100,000 loan from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

The company, which is based in Tockwith, near York, packs a range of dried fruit, nuts and other products for leading brands such as Suma Wholefoods, which are stocked by high street health stores and supermarkets. It is seeing growing demand for snack packs and recently helped to launch a UK range for the Good Snack Company, based in Dublin.

Meanwhile the company is also boosting sales of its own Country Products range by refreshing its brand image and introducing recyclable packaging. Sales of cereals – the first line to be rebranded – have increased by over 50 per cent and the firm is now replacing plastic jars with paper boxes in its herbs and spices range.

Country Products was established in 1983 by Mark Leather, the CEO, and currently employs 24 staff. Following the appointment of John Taylor as General Manager in 2017, the two have put a growth plan in place. They have already improved efficiency with new operating practices, new machinery and a new IT system and aim to double its current £1.7m turnover in the next three years. The funding will help create two new jobs initially.

Mark Leather said: “As consumers are more aware of healthy eating and want to see more environmentally-friendly packaging, we are responding to demand. We see opportunities to win more contracts and target bigger foodservice firms, as well as developing our own Country Products range. The funding will give us the growth capital we need to buy in addtitional stock and employ more staff in line with the growth of the business.”

Ian Atkinson, Investment Manager with Mercia, said: “Country Products has built a reputation as a supplier of quality wholefoods to some of the leading independent wholesalers in the country. Having invested in improving plant and efficiency, it is well positioned to take on new opportunities. The funding will allow Mark and his team to put their plans into action.”

Mark Wilcockson, Senior Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “NPIF continues to drive investment throughout the North and support businesses striving for growth. We are proud to work in partnership with Mercia and our other appointed fund managers to make a real impact to businesses like Country Products and we look forward to seeing its growth with this investment.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.