Kendal Nutricare, the pharmaceutical research company that makes Britain’s only infant formula, has been named ‘UK Business of the Year 2017’ at the Federation of Small Businesses and Worldpay UK Business Awards in London.
It also won ‘Exporter of the Year’.
The double accolade marks the latest milestone in a runaway success story.
Ross McMahon bought the Heinz baby food factory on the outskirts of Kendal in the summer of 2015, saving the jobs of the 88 staff there.
The deal included a two-year agreement to manufacture Heinz infant cereals for the UK and Heinz infant formula for the Chinese market. This provided a secure order book while the fledgling business found its feet.
Ross turned to the Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub for advice as he worked on a three-year growth plan to take turnover rise to £31.6m by 2019-20.
Through the Growth Hub, he was able to secure a £365,000 Cumbria Growth Fund grant to gear up for expansion, plus recovery grants after the site suffered flooding in December 2015, and he received to develop the business’ export strategy.
Kendal Nutricare also signed up for the Chamber’s Made in Cumbria network.
The factory was opened by Glaxo in 1962 and over the years has traded as Farley’s, Boots and latterly Heinz following changes of ownership.
The workforce has grown from 88 to 118 since the Kendal Nutricare acquisition, and is set to grow further.
The latest awards success comes as its unique Kendamil infant formula – with a new palm-oil free recipe that improves nutrition – is due to appear on the shelves of 150 Morrisons supermarkets from June.
In the following months, Kendamil will go on sale in Asda and Sainsbury’s, making the product available nationwide for the first time.
We have worked incredibly hard to get to where we are and there has never been a moment’s breathing time.
It is already listed by the NHS – allowing buyers in hospitals to choose Kendamil products for their maternity units and baby and paediatric care units – as well as in Booths supermarkets in the North West and Yorkshire.
Kendamil has been the cornerstone of Kendal Nutricare’s success because it is unlike any other infant formula and the only British-made formula.
Its unique recipe incorporates full-cream natural nutrients, sourced from 220 farms in Cumbria and Lancashire.
Food science experts say a cow’s-milk formula better mimics human breast milk and helps infants to absorb calcium and other essential fatty acids.
With these nutritional benefits, Kendamil’s export business has boomed.
A year ago, it signed a £6m deal to sell in China and has since entered markets in Africa, South East Asia and the Middle East.
Kendamil is stocked in more than 8,000 mother and baby stores in China, making Kendal Nutricare one of Britain’s most successful exporters to China.
A brand new Kendamil Organic formula will be launched at CBME – the world’s biggest mother and baby show – in Shanghai in July. Its launch will be accompanied by that of Kendamil cereals, packed in 300g tins for the first time, and new superfruit smoothie and meal replacement shake ‘Kendalife’.
With a super-kosher Kendamil Mehadrin product on sale in specialist Jewish grocery stores in Britain, and in stores in the USA and Canada, Kendal Nutricare’s growth strategy remains on target.
Ross said: “We could never have predicted that we would become the UK ‘Business of the Year’ in under two years.
“We have worked incredibly hard to get to where we are and there has never been a moment’s breathing time. We now look forward to making our listings in Morrisons and ASDA a huge success, as well as launching our brand new products and attracting even more buyers.”
Ross was named the Institute of Directors’ north west start-up director of the year in Manchester in the spring, while the business won the ‘innovation’ category at the CN Group Business Awards last autumn.
Earlier this year Kendal Nutricare won the ‘Greater China Rising Star’ category in the Department for International Trade’s ‘Greater China Awards 2017’, recognising Kendamil’s success in breaking into the China market.
Cumbria Growth Fund was set up after Cumbria Chamber of Commerce took part in a national competitive tendering process to secure £4m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF).
Manufacturing businesses have been able to apply for grants of between £10,000 and £1m to support growth and competitiveness. The minimum when applying directly to an open round of the RGF was £1m – ruling out many smaller projects.
Cumbria Growth Fund has supported 44 businesses with £3.8m of grant funding, helping to create or safeguard 520 jobs and leverage £25m of private sector investment.
The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP.
The Growth Hub is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information click here.
© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce