The Bedale-based company plans to offer 10 regional start-ups the opportunity to join a Silicon Valley-style centre of food excellence in the Vale of York.
To begin the process, firms will be invited to an open day in April for a brainstorming session.
The move comes a month after Heck scrapped plans for a £4m visitor centre. Sausage World, as it was to be known, was cancelled after an EU grant it was expected to receive from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) was turned down.
Heck co-founder Andrew Keeble blamed the decision on the “sink hole” of Brexit. He added that given there was “now no money” for rural enterprises, Heck could make a difference by opening its doors to local food innovators.
‘The next generation of food businesses’
“For us, it’s all about doing things differently and innovating all the time,” he said. “We’re now hoping to inspire the next generation of food businesses in Yorkshire.”
Heck is already working with vegan rice pudding maker A Go-Go, which manufactures its products in the sausage-maker’s dedicated vegan factory.
A Go-Go founder Adam Dick is also able to consult with Heck’s design team for advice on style and branding, the sausage maker said. Use of Heck’s premises has helped Dick keep production local, while still being able to guarantee his food as vegan friendly, it added.
Heck has been on a NPD drive since the opening of its £3.5m factory in 2017. It claimed to be on course to generate £30m in sales this year, after recently installing a £1m machine that makes up to 60,000 sausages an hour.
“We were the first to launch a chicken sausage, and now have a full range of fantastic plant based vegan sausages and burgers,” Keeble said.
‘Vegan breakfast sausage’
“We’re the first company to launch a vegan breakfast sausage. Our What the Heck approach allows us to do things differently.”
Keeble said he was well aware the “big boys” were watching Heck’s every move, but that they couldn’t compete on quality, taste and “our amazing people who are the back bone of the business”.
“We are having fantastic success with our vegan sausages and burgers from our bespoke factory, and our proposition of flavour and natural ingredients, combined with one of the UK's most trusted brand names, puts us in a strong position,” he explained.
Keeble said Heck Vegetarian is to be stocked in Tesco following listings in Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Ocado.
He added that after recently entering the foodservice sector, the company had its sights set on exporting to Australia, Belgium, Ireland and Germany.
Last year, the company increased production capacity by 25% and created 60 jobs as part of a £4m spend.