A Welsh Government and EU-funded project has delivered a significant boost to the food and drink industry in Wales, helping it develop hundreds of new products and create new jobs.
The news comes on the second day of the return of Wales' major food and drink event, BlasCymru/TasteWales, which is taking place in Newport.
Project HELIX, which began in 2016, is a pan-Wales initiative delivered by Food Innovation Wales, a partnership of three food centres based in Anglesey, Ceredigion and Cardiff.
It supports Welsh companies to develop innovative products from concept, design, development and manufacture, through to the consumer's shopping basket, helping businesses grow and thrive.
Latest figures show the project has had an economic impact of 185.6 million to food and drink businesses in Wales, helped create 447 jobs and protected a further 2,306.
More than 380 businesses and 943 individuals throughout Wales have been supported, of which 228 are new business start-ups. It has seen the development of 1,240 new products and helped producers access 778 new markets.
Supporting the food and drink industry through what has been an incredibly challenging year for the sector, Food Innovation Wales has been key in upskilling Wales's workforce, supported the development of plant-based and healthier new products, and seen companies on a more sustainable footing by reducing waste, improving efficiency and developing new products.
Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths, visited the Food Technology Centre in Llangefni during the summer to hear more about project HELIX. The facility helps companies manufacture products on a pilot scale to secure sales from retailers before investing in equipment. It also benefits from a sensory analysis suite and a fully equipped laboratory.
The Minister said:
The success of Project HELIX shows the importance of collaboration between academia, industry experts, government and producers to boost innovation, create jobs, build skills and launch new businesses.
As we recover from the pandemic and face the pressing challenges of a changing climate, the ability to innovate and seize new opportunities will be more important than ever to our Welsh food and drink businesses.
I encourage producers and manufacturers across Wales to explore what support is available through Project HELIX and how its world-class expertise and advanced technical facilities can benefit their businesses.
One business to benefit from Project HELIX is Authentic Curries and World Foods in Aberdare. The business produces a variety of ready-made meals using home style cooking methods for retail, restaurants, pubs, local authorities and major supermarket chain cafes.
Through the ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre in Cardiff, they have received technical support in areas such as internal auditing against BRCGS Food Safety standards and and basic food safety. As a result of the company maintaining their BRCGS Food Safety certification they have been able to secure two additional customers, launch 15 new products and retain sales of over half a million pounds.
Paul Trotman, managing director of Authentic Curries said:
The support we've received from ZERO2FIVE has benefited us no end. It's been invaluable to have expertise from outside, coming in and auditing us in preparation for BRCGS. All of the involvement we have had with Cardiff Met University has been amazing and it helps things run a lot more smoothly.
Prof. David Lloyd, on behalf of Food Innovation Wales, said:
Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic have raised important questions over food security and skills availability. An increasing awareness of the climate crisis our planet is facing and the strain of diet-related disease on our communities has also made us take greater notice of the food we eat and where it comes from.
Whilst these questions pose fundamental challenges for Welsh food and drink manufacturing, they can also provide opportunities for Wales to be at the forefront of positive change. We can lead the way with sustainability, skill-development, a focus on local produce and the promotion of healthier diets.
This is where Food Innovation Wales is playing a key role. With our range of pan-Wales technical, operational and commercial expertise, we can support Welsh food and drink manufacturers to innovate and be more resilient to the challenges ahead of us.