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Prima aims to corner UK suet market after move to Welsh plant; Jobs created by pounds 400,000 investment.

Byline: Chris Kelsey

A FOOD company in Llanelli could be producing as much as half the UK's suet within two years following a pounds 400,000 inward investment project.

Prima Foods, led by Peter Rice and his fellow directors, has taken over a formerly disused food processing plant at Dafen and transformed it into a modern suet-making factory.

The company now produces 20 tonnes a week of shredded vegetable and beef suet from the plant and aims to boost this to 50 tonnes in two years, according to Mr Rice.

"We believe we can capture half the national market in two years," he said. "We will aim to do this through excellent service, flexibility in products and delivery, and because the directors of Prima have a huge amount of experience of the food industry behind them."

The investment package was cornerstoned by a pounds 100,000 loan from Corus subsidiary UK Steel Enterprise (UKSE).

Glyn Thomas of UKSE said: "This is an excellent project that has come to this part of West Wales, and will bring jobs where they are badly needed.

"It is also good news that this site has been brought back into use as a food processing plant, for which it was designed."

Other funding was provided by Finance Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government, bank facilities and private capital. Carmarthenshire County Council, through their officer Barry Davies, played a key role.

The fact that the site - a former abattoir - is geared up for food production was an important factor in the firm's decision to move to Dafen. "We needed a bespoke food production facility," Mr Rice said. "As well as the fact that it was already designed for food production, the site has excellent transport links to the M4, which is vital as we are selling all over the UK.

"We also plan to tackle overseas markets in the future."

Turnover stands at pounds 1.5m, and the business plan foresees this doubling in two years, in line with the doubling of production.

At that stage around 15 people will be employed. Some former workers of the abattoir have already been taken on at the plant which currently employs eight.

Prima is developing some novel products. A new lighter, healthier suet is being developed, as are gluten-free and organic varieties.

"We will offer flexibility to our customers," said Mr Rice. "With the equipment we have installed we are able to offer short runs with a fast turnaround. For the food service market, such as hotels and restaurants, we can supply packs as small as 3kg, and we feel this will prove popular."

The bulk of production will, though, be for manufacturers who supply leading multiple retailers.

"We believe we can compete very cost effectively in this market due to our production techniques," said Mr Rice.

Prima has achieved the all-important British Retail Consortium approval, vital for entry into the sector supplying the supermarkets.

"We are delighted with the support we have received and confident that we made the right choice in moving to Wales," Mr Rice said.

Prima serves the bakery sector, ready-meal makers, the wholesale trade and retail packers, and has plans to develop its own brand later this year.

Suet is the principal constituent of many staple foods popular in the UK, such as dumplings, bakery products and puddings, with a market worth around pounds 7m a year or 100 tonnes a week.

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BACKING: Glyn Thomas, UK Steel Enterprise, centre, with Gary Saunders, left, and Peter Rice of Prima Foods
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 27, 2010
Words:587
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