Saturday 25th January 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 07/01/2020

Food & drink producers 'forge ahead' helped by export growth

The food and drink sector - the biggest industry in the East of England, accounting for around a sixth of the local economy - has emerged as a key growth driver in the region helped by a dramatic growth in overseas sales, particularly to the US and Asia. According to a new report from Make UK and Santander, Britain’s food and drink sector continues to ignore the uncertain political and economic climate and is ‘forging ahead at home and abroad’. Overseas food & drink sales from the UK have risen by just under a quarter in the last two years. Although the EU still accounts for just under two thirds of exports worth £13.9 billion, the rest of the world has seen significant growth. Sales to Asia & Oceania are up by 295% in the last twenty years and by 260% to the US. However, the UK still imports food and drink worth £46 billion compared to exports worth £23 billion. The report also highlights the rise of online food and drink shopping in the UK which outstrips anywhere else in Europe. Charlotte Horobin, region director for Make UK in the East of England, said: “The food and drink sector continues to benefit from the British public’s desire to eat, drink and be merry. Despite the economic and political uncertainty the sector seems to be shielded from the difficulties experienced elsewhere and is driving hard for growth in the UK and overseas. Despite growth in the rest of the world however, the EU remains the dominant market for exports of food and drink. As such, it is vital that frictionless trade and fast and easy access continues in any post Brexit agreement if the remarkable growth pattern of the sector is to be maintained.” Overall, sales in the food & drink sector rose to £85.6 billion in 2018, up by 7.6% since 2016 and employment in the sector has risen by 5.3% to 440,000, a 15-year high.

Separately, Woodforde’s is investing £1million in a new bottling and canning line at its brewery in Woodbastwick in Norfolk and is planning to grow overseas and sell its beer in Scandinavia, the USA and Russia in the next 12 months. The new facility means the brewery will become become self-sufficient and can avoid transporting its beer around the country for bottling and canning. Other smaller local breweries will also be able to use the facility.

New Aldi store and innovation centre planned at Suffolk Park

Developer Jaynic and Aldi have unveiled plans to develop a new supermarket, innovation centre and retail kiosks to Suffolk Park in Bury. The plans would see the creation of a state-of-the-art innovation centre, to provide space for entrepreneurs and local businesses to expand and potentially create up to 200 new local jobs. Roland Stanley, property director at Aldi, said: “Since Aldi first opened in Bury St Edmunds over 10 years ago, our store on Millennium Way has become extremely popular, and many of our customers are already travelling across town to shop at Aldi. A new store will be more convenient to those people, as well as easing congestion at the existing store. A number of our stores in East Anglia already trade successfully next to business parks and are a valuable amenity for those businesses and their staff."

Ben Oughton, development director at Jaynic, said: “We are delighted to announce our partnership with Aldi, and our plans for a new innovation centre at Suffolk Park, which will create a high-quality space for local businesses to expand." Meanwhile, after a series of successful lettings, Jaynic has submitted a detailed planning application to West Suffolk Council for a further 367,000 sq ft of warehouse units on Suffolk Park.

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Suffolk businesses face mixed fortunes but remain robust

Suffolk businesses faced mixed fortunes in the fourth quarter but remain more robust than the East of England average and are faring better than the UK as a whole, according to Suffolk Chamber’s latest economic survey. Seventeen of the 30 main indicies recorded by the survey in Suffolk showed an improvement and 11 showed a decline. Suffolk’s service companies saw a marked rise in confidence particularly on improved profitability, turnover and growth in employment but they also faced worrying declines in export sales and cashflow. Manufacturers saw further improvements in domestic sales and orders from lows earlier in 2019 but fell back in terms of overseas sales and orders and cashflow. Paul Simon, head of communications and campaigns at the chamber, said: “…it is to be hoped that with the UK scheduled to leave the EU on 31 January, further clarity will mean that more companies will feel able to deliver their long-term growth plans than have been able to date. Appropriate assistance from government – including securing a trade deal with the EU - would certainly be welcome in helping to accelerate these plans by smoothing out any further turbulence.”

Law firm assists on sale of video game developer

Law firm Birketts has assisted Mike Montgomery, founder of British games developer The Bitmap Brothers, in the sale of its entire portfolio to an independent game studio, Oxford-based Rebellion Developments. Founded in 1987, Bitmap’s brand is synonymous with titles such as Xenon, Z: Steel Soldiers, Speedball, and Chaos Engine. Rebellion aims to bring Bitmap’s library of popular titles from the late 80s and 90s to modern platforms as well as to create new releases based on previous material. The transaction was led by Nigel Thompson (intellectual property - photo, right). Mike Montgomery said: “It was a difficult decision to part with The Bitmap Brothers’ name and its portfolio, but I was pleased to be able to turn to Nigel, with whom I have worked for many years, and to draw upon his wealth of experience and knowledge to help me through the sale process."

Separately, Birketts’ Chelmsford office has announced that last year’s 21st annual Race4Business event raised a total of £20,000 for Little Havens Hospice which cares for babies, children and teenagers living with complex or incurable conditions across Essex. A cheque presentation took place in December at Little Havens Hospice in Benfleet, which also marked the official handover of the event to Havens Hospices.

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Two new partners appointed at law firm

Essex Law firm Thompson Smith and Puxon (TSP) has appointed Aileen Hirst Ltd and Robert Ashworth Ltd as new partners in the firm from 1 January. Aileen Hirst and Robert Ashworth are both solicitors in the Wills and Estates team and the appointment of their companies as partners in TSP brings the total to 13. Both advise clients on their Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Trusts, and Estate Administrations (Probate). As a qualified member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, Aileen Hirst has a special interest and expertise in trusts and along with team leader Fiona Ashworth is the team’s trust specialist. In 2020, as a director in the team, Aileen will focus on developing and expanding the team’s trust work. Robert Ashworth has a specialism in advising farming and agri-business clients on their succession and estate planning. He and Fiona both have strong agricultural family ties and will work together to continue to develop the team’s expertise in this area. He will also spend part of his working week at TSP’s Clacton office and will assist Fiona in growing and developing the Clacton-based team. TSP senior partner, Mary Anne Fedeyko said: “Since joining us both Aileen and Robert have assisted Wills and Estates team leader, Fiona Ashworth, developing and building the team into the extremely well-regarded and experienced team of 15 that it is today. We have ambitious plans to develop the team further and Aileen and Robert will play a key part in this.”

Consultants boosted by new senior building surveyor in Cambridge

Property and construction consultants Ingleton Wood has boosted its Cambridge team with the recruitment of a new senior building surveyor, Kevin Gawtrey (right). He has wide experience in construction on new build and refurbishment projects in the education, residential and commercial sectors. His experience in conservation also means he is well placed to support the custodians of historic buildings in Cambs and beyond. Before joining Ingleton Wood, Kevin Gawtrey was employed by local authorities, housing associations and university colleges supporting a wide range of clients. He joins the practice, which now employs over 200 employees, after it recently increased its national league-table ranking to 48 in Building magazine’s list of the UK’s top 150 consultants. Kevin Gawtrey said: “It is a privilege to join Ingleton Wood at such an exciting time of growth. I aspire to do for the client what they would do for themselves, if they had the time and technical knowledge that I have been lucky enough to acquire over the years.”

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Offshore sector achievements recognised

Survitec, Evacuator World Wide BV, 3sun Group, East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre, OSL Consulting, Spirit Energy, Laytrix Global Marine Group and Osbit were among the winners of the 2019 EEEGR (East of England Energy Group) awards held before Christmas in Norwich and sponsored by ScottishPower Renewables. Awards were presented in seven categories including member of the year which was given to East Coast College for its continued support of EEEGR, particularly on the skills for energy energy skills foundation programmes. Simon Gray, EEEGR CEO said: “It’s great to see such amazing innovations from the supply chain in the region and beyond and to celebrate them with the EEEGR membership, it’s the ideal way to another successful year in the industry.”

Training workshop to address skills gaps

The Institute of Directors is joining forces with the University of Suffolk to enable business leaders to address key skills gaps with a full day continuing professional development training workshop in Ipswich on Friday January 24th. In a recent survey the University of Suffolk with Suffolk Chamber and other local partner networks found skills gaps in five key training areas identified by respondents: strategic decision making (52%), managing people (41%), leadership (36%), business marketing (40%) and search engine optimisation (37%).  The full day CPD workshop is part of the IoD’s Professional Director Series. It will take place at the University of Suffolk’s Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre. The morning session will include two courses on 'strategic decision making' and 'role of the chair'. The afternoon session will explore the popular courses 'risk management and value creation' and 'finance for business partnering'. Simone Robinson (photo, right) director, IoD East of England said: “Suffolk has a rich community of directors and this one-day professional development programme is designed to equip these important decision makers with a strategic toolkit to help them hit the ground running in 2020. IoD members can sign onto the event for £249 + VAT while the price for University of Suffolk Partners and Alumni is £314 + VAT. The price for non-members is £349 + VAT.

Extra cash for early-stage life science venture

The sponsors of the Babraham Research Campus Accelerate@Babraham initiative, LifeArc, has extended its support with an additional £10,000 in the form of an award for the ‘most progressed’ venture taking part in the StartUPCompetition@Babraham 2019/20 programme. Introduced in 2018, the Accelerate@Babraham initiative is designed to support ambitious early-stage life science ventures in the active Babraham Research Campus community. The competition supports ideas and/or companies that are pre-seed to seed stage (below £500k investment). LifeArc is making the additional award available having been impressed by the standard of the programme to date. David Holbrook, head of seed funds, LifeArc said: “Our focus is to bridge the gap on the journey of translating innovation, incubating small start-ups to a point where they could attract venture funding to further progress their innovations, which is a superb fit with the objectives of the Babraham Research Campus and more specifically the Accelerate@Babraham initiative. “

Condiments producer aims for zero waste

Suffolk-based condiments producer Stokes Sauces has pledged to become a zero-waste business by recycling all its waste and sending zero to landfill. Sackers, which has the technology to recycle around 90 per cent of all commercial waste it collects, has started working with Rendlesham-based Stokes Sauces on waste recycling. Sackers segregates and recycle cardboard which is then made into more cardboard and other fibre products. Plastics are separated by grade before being granulated and made into new, recycled plastic products; tins are smelted into new aluminium or steel items; and recycled glass is used in construction. Meanwhile, any food waste is sent to an anaerobic digestion plant where it is turned into clean, green energy. Rick Sheepshanks, founder of Stokes Sauces, said: “We take our responsibility to the environment very seriously at Stokes Sauces, minimising our impact as much as possible and constantly striving to improve our ways of working. It is vitally important that we get this right, and we are pleased to be working with Sackers so we can achieve our ‘zero to landfill’ goal as quickly as possible.”

Nigel Slinn, commercial director at Sackers, said: “It’s great to be able to help Stokes Sauces with solutions for a zero-waste target. We aim to divert as much away from landfill as possible and with our vast network of contacts and knowledge, we can prevent the vast majority of waste from going to landfill."

Photo (l-r): Gary Foreland, Peter Kerr and Ben Rourke (of Stokes Sauces) and Darren Gaston (Sackers).

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Sustainability on the menu at Cambridge college

St John’s College Cambridge has strengthened its commitment to sustainability by holding an evening featuring environmental presentations and with a four-course tasting menu created by two of the UK’s leading vegan chefs. The event comprised talks by three prominent sustainability and conservation academics: Dame Polly Courtice, Professor Andrew Balmford and Dr Chris Sandbrook. Fifty invited guests – bursars, catering managers, fellows’ and college stewards, chairs of high table and wine committees and head chefs – representing 17 Cambridge colleges attended the event. The four-course vegan tasting menu was prepared by Andreas Antona and Luke Tipping from Simpsons Restaurant in Birmingham, a Michelin-starred restaurant ranked in the top ten vegan restaurants in the UK and in the top 40 in the world. The meal, prepared in St John’s College kitchen, included a carrot broth with a parsley oil; pickled, raw heritage beetroot with red vein sorrel. Bill Brogan, catering & conference manager at St John’s College, said: “We were delighted to host this high-profile event which raised further awareness of the importance of sustainability. The hard-hitting presentations focused everyone’s minds on the challenge ahead, with the vegan tasting menu illustrating how we can create world-class cuisine using sustainable ingredients.”

Photo(l-r): Bill Brogan, catering & conference manager, St John’s College; Andreas Antona, Michelin-starred chef-patron at Simpsons Restaurant in Birmingham; and Ean Hogg, assistant catering manager, St John’s College.

Cambridge college is rising star in accommodation Audit

Murray Edwards College, Cambridge has been upgraded to a Four Star Campus Rating for the en suite accommodation it provides for conference delegates and B&B guests in vacation periods. Following an in-depth audit, the college was awarded the accolade from VisitEngland, the country’s national tourist board, in recognition of the facilities and services on offer in its bedrooms and bathrooms in Buckingham House, Canning and Eliza Fok House. Criteria included the exterior appearance of the buildings and the standard of cleanliness, decoration, fittings and furnishings in the bedrooms and bathrooms. Key public areas such as reception and the dining room were also assessed. It also noted that - unusually for a Cambridge college - guests are encouraged to walk in the informal grounds and free parking is available on site. Chris Pope, general manager of conferences, catering and residences, said: “We were thrilled to achieve a Four Star Campus Rating for the high standard of accommodation in three key areas of the College – official recognition of the hard work carried out by our team to deliver a high quality experience to our guests, that is different from the offering in hotel chains and traditional B&Bs."

Photo (l-r): Celebrating a four star rating at Murray Edwards College - Pauline Walker, accommodation manager; Stanislav Janis, supervisor and houseman; Cherie Long, supervisor; Freya Vaughan, events manager; and Claire Storey, supervisor.