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Brecon food business delivers growth with support from Welsh Government backed project

Pictured: Allie Thomas and Fran Lewis

A Brecon based food business has grown its turnover by 55% and secured major new customers with support from a technical affiliate who joined the company through a Welsh Government and EU backed project.

Founded in 2008 and based in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, Cradoc’s Savoury Biscuits produce savoury cheese crackers in unique flavour combinations, which are made with fresh vegetables.

Originally established as a kitchen table start-up, the family run business has grown to supply major UK supermarkets and export to customers across the world. Now employing seven people, Cradoc’s moved to a larger, renewable electricity powered production facility in 2019.

Having successfully secured SALSA food safety certification in 2019 and faced with the many demands of running a growing business, Cradoc’s owner, Allie Thomas, decided that she needed additional support to manage the company’s food safety systems.

Through the Project HELIX Knowledge Transfer Programme, Cradoc’s recruited Fran Lewis as a technical affiliate in March 2021. Fran had a background in compliance within the voluntary sector and civil service, as well as experience in food manufacturing and catering, and was looking to combine these two areas of interest.

The Project HELIX Knowledge Transfer Programme, which is delivered by ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University, employs part-funded technical or sales and marketing affiliates and embeds them within Welsh food and drink manufacturers with full support from ZERO2FIVE.

Fran’s responsibilities at Cradoc’s include maintaining and monitoring the company’s food safety management systems. Fran also runs the company’s internal audit programme, assessing the company’s practices and processes against SALSA guidelines, and has implemented a stage gate best practice approach to new product development.

Since Fran joined the business, Cradoc’s have successfully passed three SALSA audits. Most recently in July 2022, the company passed their audit with no non-conformances.

Allie Thomas, owner of Cradoc’s said:

“Fran has been instrumental in maintaining our SALSA certification. She knows pretty much everything you need to know about the system, and she’s also brought her administrative acumen into the business. We would not be at the level of food safety where we are now without Project HELIX and Fran.”

Fran Lewis, technical affiliate, said:

“It’s about driving forward continuous improvement. For example, recently there’s been a new version of SALSA that’s been issued. So, it’s been about looking at all the changes, adapting to them, and making sure that we are not only compliant with them, but whether we can be going above and beyond the guidelines.”

Maintaining SALSA certification has been vital for Cradoc’s to maintain their existing customer base as well as in securing new customers. In 2021, the company posted a 55% increase in turnover compared to 2020 and this year they’ve brought on board four new UK-based customers, including a major supermarket.

Allie said:

“We wouldn’t be able to secure the kind of customers we want without SALSA certification. It reassures all our existing customers and potential new customers that we have a safe product and excellent hygiene and cleaning procedures.”

“We’re now exporting to different markets that we wouldn’t have been able to like Korea and Dubai.”

Fran added:

“Me being here has really enabled Allie to pass on the SALSA baton to me and allow her to focus on driving growth for the business in different areas.”

The Project HELIX knowledge transfer scheme hasn’t only benefited Cradoc’s, it’s also helped Fran’s professional development.

Fran said:

“I am so impressed with the level of skill, knowledge, and experience of the food technologists at ZERO2FIVE. They’ve been so patient in helping me develop new skills in areas like auditing, traceability, product recall and new product development. They’re so approachable and are always on hand for any kind technical advice that we may need.

“Project HELIX is all about personal growth for me, economic growth for the business and wider growth for the food and drink sector in Wales.”

Project HELIX’s Knowledge Transfer Programme is funded through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.