A family food business with ambitions to take its product development to the next level has invested in some nifty technology and a new product development kitchen with the help of a grant from the FEAST2 (Food Enterprise Advisory Support Team) scheme.
NAH Foods Ltd based on Bedford’s Ampthill Road has been producing innovative vegan pasta, noodle and rice products since 2012. They are made from a root vegetable called konjac that has been part of the traditional diet in South East Asia for centuries but is not as well known in the UK.
Because it’s so high in fibre – therefore keeping you feeling fuller for longer – and is low in calories, NAH calls its core range Slim Noodles, Slim Rice and Slim Pasta. But the benefits don’t stop there; the products, made from konjac flour, are also gluten free, sugar free and contain zero carbs.
The company is run by husband-and-wife team Nayna and Ash Halai and Nayna’s brother Ash Patel, and the trio have worked hard to develop their range to ensure it tastes and feels as near to conventional wheat pasta and noodles or real rice as possible, which, they say, is also ideal for those people who avoid such ingredients because of health conditions or personal preference.
Last year the company decided to introduce chilled meals to their range, which required considerable investment in new factory premises, including storage facilities and a New Product Development (NPD) kitchen and it was for that expansion project that it received a grant of £15,661 from FEAST2, which covered 25 per cent of the costs and help fund the kitchen kit-out.
Among the items required was special sealing technology developed in Sweden, a system which, in layman’s terms, includes a valve which turns the whole package into something like a pressure cooker, enabling a vacuum to be created when the meals are cooked.
Crucially, this method gives the food a six-week shelf life and means the recipe is completely preservative-free.
As Nayna explained, the financial boost could not have come at a better time: “Getting the grant from FEAST2 came at a crucial moment as our plans to branch out into chilled meals coincided with the arrival of the COVID pandemic, with all the restrictions that brought” she said.
“The grant helped us set up the New Product Development kitchen so we could start the process of developing our new range of chilled meals and, had we not received it, it would have pushed us back, so it had a very positive and significant impact” she added.
The company has now added to four chilled meals to its product range – Bangkok Style Noodles, Thai Green Noodles, Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese and Chinese Veg Fried Rice – and those are now available to buy at www.eatwater.co.uk while the ‘Slim’ product range is also available in Holland and Barrett.
FEAST2 was awarded to the Food & Drink Forum and is worth £3,934,176 in total. It will receive a further £1,967,089 in funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.
It is open to eligible food and drink manufacturers within the SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership) area, covering Central Bedfordshire, Bedford Borough, Luton, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury Vale in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire.
For more details of the project, including registering your business for the free support on offer, please contact Amanda Askew at The Mallows Company on 01933 664437 or email firstname.lastname@example.org