Jobs boost for Yorkshire as £2m 'free-from' food factory opens in Harrogate

Kirsty’s, the Yorkshire based ‘free-from’ food brand has invested £2m in a new factory that will help achieve its target of doubling the size of the business within three years.

Kirsty Henshaw, managing director,
Kirsty Henshaw, managing director,

The new factory, based in Harrogate, will give Kirsty’s the capability to produce 20 million ready meals per year as well as scope to move into other categories such as soups, pies and sauces.

The completely allergen free site will enable the brand to move away from using co-manufacturers, where free-from new product development can be difficult.

The investment has created 13 jobs so far and this is expected to increase to 30 by next summer.

Kirsty Henshaw, the firm's managing director, said: “From the very first day I started the business I have always wanted to own my own factory, it was a goal that I always wanted to achieve.

“Up until now we have worked with hand-picked manufacturers and whilst this has given the brand security and an easier route to market over the years it didn’t give me the flexibility and control over my own destiny that I’ve always craved.

“Now the factory is up and running I’m looking forward to this new chapter in Kirsty’s history. The fact that we will have the capability to produce 20 million free-from ready meals a year and be able to explore new product development like never before is something that excites me and everyone working for the brand.”

A spokesman said: "The launch of the new factory hasn’t come without its challenges, since taking ownership in January, Kirsty has had to juggle the day to day running of the business, oversee the project team building the factory and set up a new family home for her children all whilst the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting lockdown took place."

Ms Henshaw continued: “Fortunately food manufacturing is defined as key work, therefore during lockdown we have been able to keep pressing forward with the business and I’m extremely proud to have been able to supply free-from ready meals to millions of families during this testing period.

“However, the lockdown has brought several unforeseen challenges, I have recently had to set up a new family home for my children and play teacher, entertainer and of course my original role as Mum. Add trying to maintain some form of social life, remembering to exercise and top it all off with launching a new factory and you get quite the juggling act.

“It certainly has been one of the most challenging, stressful and emotional few months of my life but we managed to make it to the other side and I can now start to enjoy the hard work myself and the team have put in.

“We’re looking forward to sharing what the new factory will bring to the brand. New product development has always been a passion of mine and I’m sure that our customers won’t have to wait long before seeing new and exciting free-from products hitting the shelves.”

The business was inspired by Ms Henshaw's long search for free from food options that her son would be able to enjoy, after she discovered he had several allergies.

She then went on to appear on the BBC's Dragon’s Den in 2010 and worked with Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne for the following three years.

The brand, which is now worth £11m, sells a range of chilled ready meals, frozen pizzas and frozen desserts which are gluten and dairy free and are now stocked in every major supermarket in the UK.

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