Gourmet ready meal firm Cook to boost capacity by 80%

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Cook produces hand-prepared ready meals at its production kitchens
Cook produces hand-prepared ready meals at its production kitchens

Related tags frozen Technology & Automation

Gourmet frozen ready meal manufacturer Cook aims to boost production capacity by 80% thanks to the installation of new spiral freezers supplied by Starfrost, supporting aims to double sales within five years.

The company produces hand-prepared ready meals at its production kitchens. The approach includes chefs stirring dishes with large paddles, and manually ladling and garnishing each dish by hand.

An existing production kitchen at full capacity and a plan to double sales within five years led to Cook to acquire a new site in Sittingbourne, Kent, to enable an increase in volume of its ready to cook meals.

As part of the expansion project, the recently awarded 'feel good' brand invested in freezing technology that would improve efficiency and the quality of its best-selling gourmet recipes.

Helix spiral freezer

Starfrost designed and installed a Helix spiral freezer - an automated freezing system enabling products to be consistently frozen and at a reduced time in comparison to blast freezing.

"The spiral freezer has delivered a 50% increase in production capacity, improved product quality and created a better working environment within our production kitchens,"​ said Ben Walker, head of pioneer at Cook.

He said with the addition of a second spiral freezer this summer, the business planned a further 30% increase, bringing total expected throughput up by 80%.

Extensive product trials

Following extensive product trials at their laboratory test facility in Suffolk, Starfrost designed and manufactured a bespoke Helix spiral freezer system that would effectively freeze the ready-to-cook meals while locking in the freshness and quality of the ingredients.

Since the installation of the Helix spiral freezer, Cook said it had reduced manual labour, improved production efficiency, increased factory space and significantly reduced processing times.

The new freezing technology had removed the need for large rack trolleys within the production kitchens, an operational requirement for blast freezers, Cook added.

Samuel Welch, UK sales manager at Starfrost said: "The next spiral freezer project for Cook, currently being manufactured, is a duplicate model of the recently installed Helix, designed to freeze 3,600 meals per hour, and will deliver the same energy efficient and maximised capacity benefits."

In its latest financial report covering the year to 31 March 2020, Cook Trading recorded sales increasing year-on-year from £64m to £72.8m and operating profit almost doubling from £2.8m to £4.4m. 

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