Bagged salads and prepared fruit specialist Natures Way Foods has secured planning permission to build a £14m packhouse in Runcton that will create 110 permanent jobs and up to 270 flexible roles.
The firm, which currently operates from two sites in Runcton and Selsey, is aiming to open the new site - adjacent to its existing Runcton site - by the end of this year, chief executive Sue Barratt told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
"This gives us the capacity to grow. We are constrained by our ability to expand the existing two sites, but we also feel that we want to keep individual sites to a manageable size."
The new site will included a state-of-the-art refrigerated warehouse and salad pack house, with offices and parking, she said. "We are still deciding the exact mix of products we will produce there."
Lasting Leaf: Innovation in bagged salads
Natures Way Foods is now in talks with other supermarkets about its novel 'Lasting Leaf' salad range, which it launched exclusively in Waitrose last year, said Barratt.
"The exclusivity period with Waitrose ends in the spring so we are starting to talk to other potential customers now."
While the range did not have a longer date code on pack than rival products, it lasted longer in the fridge after consumers opened the pack as the lettuce leaves are blanched in warm water immediately after being cut, which delays pinking and browning.
Sales of cut fruit and bagged salads were still growing strongly in the supermarkets, said Barratt.
The firm, which picked up the top prize in the fresh produce category at the 2010 Food Manufacturing Excellence Awards, is on course to turn over more than £100m this year, said Barratt.
"Bagged salads continued to grow throughout the deepest darkest days of 2008 and they are still showing around 4.5% growth. Prepared fruit levelled off during the recession but has since come back quite strongly, so we are feeling very confident about our growth prospects."