A spokesman confirmed that the food giant is investing the money to increase production of specialist mother and baby foods for the Chinese market, in a move that will “provide a new future for the historic Kendal base” at Mint Bridge Road in Cumbria.
However, it is too early say if existing staffing levels of 206 will be increased, and the company would only reveal that the money will be spent on improved systems and up-to-date manufacturing process.
Operations manager Brendan Warriner told local paper the Westmorland Gazette that Heinz was taking the opportunity to expand after the well-publicised health scares affecting native Chinese suppliers in late 2008.
Kendal site manager Damian Killen added that upscaling production of nutrient supplements for mothers and infant formula would help Heinz to secure a greater market share in China.
“We need an edge to compete against other companies who are already supplying goods in the Far East,” he said.
Heinz has been operating in Kendal since 1994, and produces over 150 different products at Kendal, with around two tons of food made every hour.
Killen said: “I want us to be more well-known in South Lakeland because we have had a major base here since 1962. We’re a major employer but have people telling us they had no idea we are here.”
Chinese melamine scare
In September 2008 Chinese infant formula manufacturer Sanlu shocked the country by recalling products it admitted were contaminated with melamine – an industrial chemical that can cause kidney problems – which was added to a protein powder used in liquid milk by the firm's suppliers.
By the end of September, melamine-laced milk products led to over 56,000 infants and young children falling ill and four babies dying of kidney failure.