The horticultural firm, which incorporates the brand B Sow Healthy, supplies UK supermarkets with salad cress, pea shoots and micro greens, all grown soil free and hydroponically without pesticides or herbicides.
The CBIL, arranged by Virgin Money, has been earmarked to contribute to the cost of fitting out new glasshouses and expanding the company’s packing capacity.
Managing director Jan Bentley, who has run the enterprise since 1996, said its innovation during the pandemic helped it remain competitive despite losing substantial business in the catering market, representing 20% of its turnover.
“Continually assessing the market and its fluctuations has always been integral to our business,” Bentley said.
“I was really keen to expand and diversify our product range, and most recently identified pea shoots and micro greens as real gaps in the market which we could capitalise on using our existing facilities and expertise.”
A steep decline in the demand for salad cress also posed challenges for the company during lockdown. However, Bentley emphasised that the family-owned business was able to react quickly to market demands.
“Customer relationships are key, and we have looked after some of our supermarket customers for decades,” he said. “We have learned to react and respond quickly to their needs, developing products in line with their own individual strategies.
“This is exactly what has happened recently, working closely with the supermarkets, listening to where the gaps are, and where our strengths can fit in. We engage in new product development to fulfil their needs.”
The latest funding for WS Bentley follows a £500,000 five-year loan from Virgin Money in 2020 covering costs of a new glasshouse, new annexe and the expansion of existing glass space. The company said this was ‘effectively a re-cash of prior spending’ to allow for the next stage of increasing growing space.
“WS Bentley has worked really hard to grow their enterprise by responding to market trends and the associated demand for healthy food,” said Darren Smith, relationship manager at Virgin Money.
“It has been really exciting to help Jan strengthen and expand the business to meet the needs of today’s health-conscious consumers.”