Exclusive interview with Rohit Samani, chairman, Vibrant Foods: Part 1

Vibrant Foods boosts Indian food production

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

Vibrant Foods claims there has been a 'huge explosion in demand' for its Eat Real brand
Vibrant Foods claims there has been a 'huge explosion in demand' for its Eat Real brand

Related tags: Ambient, Ingredients & nutrition, Training & recruitment

Indian foods manufacturer Vibrant Foods has increased production at its TRS Foods factory in Southall and East End Foods West Bromwich factory by 50% to manage surging sales, sparked by the coronavirus lockdown.

“We are enhancing substantially our manufacturing capability at Kendrick Way ​[West Bromwich] and also warehousing capacity,” ​Vibrant Foods chairman Rohit Samani told Food Manufacture​. He said the increase in output had been driven by increased efficiencies and line optimisation.

He added that Vibrant Foods owned a small specialist spice blending company based in Suffolk called Spice & Seasoning [International]. “We think we can do a lot more there,” ​said Samani, who was also chief executive of rice business Tilda until 2017.

He confirmed Cofresh Snack Foods, which Vibrant Foods announced on 3 July it had acquired, would continue plans revealed in May 2019 to build a free-from factory at Nuneaton, dedicated to its Eat Real healthy snacks. Cofresh concentrates on authentic Indian snacks and was established in 1974. The Eat Real brand was launched in 2014 and is suitable for vegans, kosher and halal consumers.

Nuneaton factory ready before end of year

“That’s a new factory, which will be ready towards the end of the year,” ​Samani said. “We’ll start a limited amount of production sooner than that. That will also free up capacity at our ​[Cofresh] factory in Leicester.

“We’re seeing a huge explosion in demand for the Eat Real brand. Healthier snacking is on the increase and we’re playing quite a central role in that.”

He said Vibrant Foods’ domestic retail and cash & carry sales and exports to Continental Europe had grown significantly since lockdown and that this trend was continuing. As a result, he said: “We just put in a night shift at Southall. We’re doing extended shifts to ramp up production at both our factories.”

Vibrant Foods was also considering investing in a new facility on the Continent, Samani said.

East End Foods and TRS

In November 2019, East End Foods (set up in 1972) and TRS (founded in 1959) were bought by Exponent Private Equity group, which brought them under the umbrella of Vibrant Foods this year. Samani is executive chairman of East End Foods, which operates a factory in West Bromwich in the West Midlands, and TRS, production for which is based at Southall in London.

Vibrant Foods UK factories

  • Southall, London - it makes TRS pulses and spices
  • West Bromwich, West Midlands - it makes East End flour, pulses and spices
  • Leicester - it makes products under the Cofresh Snacks brand
  • Haverhill, Suffolk - it makes spices and seasoning and spice blends
  • Nuneaton, Warwickshire (under construction) - it will make products under the Eat Real-Snacks brand

Vibrant Foods was seeking to incorporate more ethnic food enterprises, said Samani. “We see this as an opportunity for other ethnic food businesses that are looking for an exit, who would like to be part of this platform. Our plan is to add more businesses. It’s a big solution for family businesses that want to ensure their legacy is continued, also families who want to divest their businesses, but still want to remain involved.”

Vibrant Foods had been recruiting substantially more staff across all aspects of the business since acquiring TRS Foods and East End Foods, he said. Thanks to its continued growth, that recruitment campaign had not lost momentum, he added.

Recruited 50 additional people

“Across all our businesses we have got 700 people across all levels. Out of the 700, we recruited since November about 50 additional people.”​ Samani said Vibrant Foods aimed to recruit a similar number over the coming year.

The strategy had been to retain some longstanding staff with experience alongside fresh talent, Samani said. While many new employees had been put to work on the production line, there had been demand for more senior people, he added.

“We have been bringing in new people at all levels. A very good example is we recruited very good people for our export business, which is largely Europe. We have enhanced our technical capabilities at both ends, we have enhanced our operations across the supply chain.”

Spices, pulses, healthier snacking

Vibrant Foods’ core brands include TRS Foods – focused on Indian spices and pulses – and East End Foods, covering products from the Indian subcontinent such as spices and pulses, nuts, sauces and Nishaan Indian breads. These brands have now been joined by the recently acquired Cofresh brand, which concentrates largely on authentic Indian snacking, and Eat Real, which targets allergen-free healthier snacking.

Vibrant Foods also has the manufacturing capability to produce high quality, nutritious speciality flours, such as ground flour made from chickpeas.

In addition to Vibrant Foods, Exponent Private Equity’s portfolio includes Quorn Foods, Loch Lomond and Meadow Foods.

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