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Food experts set to grow

One of the Shropshire’s fastest-growing food industry companies has backed a national report which says the sector should look to new overseas markets for growth post-pandemic.

Bridge Cheese, which has its headquarters on Stafford Park in Telford, has seen a hike in demand for its products - supplied to the food industry nationwide - throughout the Covid crisis. And managing director Michael Harte said international trade, despite the challenges associated with Brexit, could hold significant opportunities for food producers and processors.

The new Food and Drink Industry Report 2020, from Santander and the Food and Drink Federation, explored the impact of COVID-19 on the sector and business confidence. The report said exports were a “golden opportunity” for recovery.

Mr Harte said: “It has been a challenging time for food and drink manufacturers, but because we are a fairly small processor we’re able to flex to customer demands more than some of the industry giants. It’s part of the reason we’ve remained a strong business throughout the crisis, because we’ve built Bridge Cheese on our ability to respond to customers’ individual needs.

“So, despite the FDF report showing low business confidence in the sector due to Covid-19 and Brexit uncertainty, we’ve continued to build sales and, echoing the report’s findings, our export market has potential too.”

Bridge Cheese sources a wide a range of cheese from across the UK and Europe that are then formatted and processed for wholesale distributors across the UK and export markets in the Middle East.

The FDF report highlights the UAE and the wider Gulf Region, China, the USA and Canada, as a ‘golden opportunity for recovery and growth’ for businesses across the food and drink sector.

Mr Harte said: “Food and drink exports from the UK are recognised globally for their quality and we see international sales of our products as a real growth area. Although a relative newcomer to the market, our team has worked with some of the biggest names in the sector and by bringing them together, we are well able to respond to the sometimes specialist requirements of the overseas markets.”

Bridge Cheese products range from grated cheese found in retail sandwiches to string cheese used in stuffed-crust pizzas sold by take-away giants across the UK.

The company has an in-house team of experts which grades and sources a range of cheeses and cheese products to produce and supply to customers which include some of the food industry’s biggest players. It has also developed a specialism for spotting food trends and offers research and development options for customers looking to innovate in their product lines.

“Food trends can change quickly and we know the impact this can have on supply chains, so we are always looking to work with our customers and suppliers to be ahead of the curve. But the export opportunities for our sector are here to stay, thanks to the reputation the UK has for its produce across the globe."

Pictured: Michael Harte, Bridge Cheese managing director

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