QUORN Foods, the maker of the Quorn meat substitute, is to create an extra 400 jobs following a £30m investment to increase production capacity as demand for its meat-free products soars.
The Stokesley-based firm said it will create an initial 100 jobs with the £30m construction of a new fermenter at its Billingham site near Middlesbrough.
Once this is operational a further 300 jobs will be created at Quorn and its suppliers in Yorkshire and the North East.
The firm currently has 600 employees and this is expected to grow to 750 once the new appointments have been made.
Kevin Brennan, chief executive of Quorn Foods, said: “Once the third fermenter is operational and fully utilised we expect to create over 300 jobs at Quorn and our suppliers.
“Already we have created 20 new roles this year including apprenticeships and international commercial roles.”
The new fermenter will boost the production of Quorn by 50 per cent.
Sales of Quorn rose by 13.5 per cent in the first three months of 2014, with UK sales up 12 per cent and international sales up 21 per cent.
Last year, the UK business experienced its fastest ever growth, with a 13 per cent increase in total sales, while most other food producers flatlined.
It has attracted more than two million customers since January 2013, taking the total to over 12.2 million.
For the first time, carnivores now outnumber its vegetarian buyers by a ratio of 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
The company now exports to 13 countries, including Australia and the US where sales in the first three months of 2014 have increased by 24 and 42 per cent respectively.
However, the main market for Quorn is the Nordic region with countries like Sweden, Denmark and Finland keen to eat healthier proteins.
The biggest new market is Germany and the group has also expanded into Belgium and Holland. It has also started exporting to South Africa.
All Quorn is produced in Britain and exported abroad.
“In the long run we will look at doing the processing – the coating and flavouring – overseas,” said Mr Brennan. “At the moment it makes the most sense to do it in Britain.”
The new fermenter will allow the business to grow by another £150m of sales and gives it the capacity to double the size of the company.
“Our ambition is to double the size of the company over the next five years,” said Mr Brennan.
Market researcher Neilsen ranks Quorn as Britain’s 35th biggest brand – overtaking family favourites such as Heinz tomato ketchup, Doritos snacks and Innocent smoothies.
“While Quorn is now well established as a global brand, with our products sold in an ever-growing number of countries, we’re proud to say that the nucleus of our operations remains in Yorkshire and the North East,” said Mr Brennan.
“As people are rethinking their meat-eating habits and realising that 500 meals a year with meat is too much for our health and the planet, demand for our products has soared and we’re now in a position where we need to expand our production facilities.
“Not only will this additional fermenter boost production by up to 50 per cent, but it will also create approximately 400 jobs, boosting the local economy at a time when it is most needed.”
Quorn’s core ingredient is a plant protein that is particularly good at replicating the texture and taste of meat.
This is a naturally occurring fungus, similar to a morel or a truffle.