The Blackpool-based processor, which specialises in eastern and western-style ready meals, won the contract after securing a £58,000 grant from the Regenerate Pennine Lancashire programme, which was set up to boost the local economy.
Peter Legg, head of economic development at Blackpool Council, said Laila’s Fine Foods had seen rapid growth over the years and the council was fully supportive of its application for the grant. “Opening up their capacity can only increase the firm’s potential to grow and create even more jobs,” he told local press.
Product output at the site will increase from 24t a day to 30t a day, as a result of the new automated filling and packing equipment the company will buy with the grant, Remtulla said.
‘Improving our productivity’
“The investment is to improve our productivity,” Remtulla told FoodManufacture.co.uk. “But it will not only allow us to increase our production for the Iceland deal, it will also allow us to take on more contracts in the future,” she added.
The company employs 250 people and the new contract will see another 10 jobs created, with a view to add more in the future, said factory manager Mark Richardson.
“We’ve also put an offer in on a building close by so we can expand production to meet growing demand, however, I can’t say much about that at the moment,” said Richardson.
Laila’s Fine Foods has achieved an annual sales increase of more than 25% in the years from 2011. The company is projected to turnover more than £18M this year, said Remtulla. Last year it turned over £12M and the year before £9.5M.
Annual sales increase
Rising turnover and the new deal with Iceland showed there was an increase in demand for high quality ready meals, said Remtulla.
Recent statistics from customer insight agency Engage Research showed premium ready meal sales grew by 8% last year, despite 65% of consumers saying they would eat fewer.
Sales of ready meals in major supermarkets rose to £2.3bn in 2013, despite the overall frozen and chilled market declining, the statistics showed.
However, sales of ready meals during the horsemeat scandal slowed and figures from April last year showed the total market had declined by 5% in year-on-year value as a result of the scandal.