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Coopers Gourmet Foods on a roll with expansion

Coopers Gourmet Foods, famed both locally and across the UK for its premium sausage rolls and other gourmet food products, has expanded its manufacturing base and product range, after receiving a grant from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Caroline Cattle MBIG Programme Manager and Ivan Watkiss of Coopers Gourmet Foods
Caroline Cattle MBIG Programme Manager and Ivan Watkiss of Coopers Gourmet Foods

The grant, worth almost £77,000, is part of the Marches Building Investment Grant (MBIG) which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund. It has allowed significant expansion work to be completed at the food firm’s headquarters in Roden, just outside of Shrewsbury.

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Founded above the company’s delicatessen in Oswestry in 2010, Coopers Sausage Rolls quickly gained widespread popularity and led founder Ivan Watkiss to take the plunge with a dedicated manufacturing facility.

He explains: “Our sausage rolls were born out of a desire to diversify our business during the recession, but I never dreamt they’d become so popular. Within a year, we’d decided to move to the Shropshire Food Enterprise Centre and after a further move in to a larger unit there, we took the plunge and invested in a derelict building in the village of Roden. That was in 2015 and growth hasn’t, thankfully, slowed at all.

“We were fortunate enough at that time to receive a Redundant Building Grant which enabled us to build the very best production, packing and storage facilities but within just six months we knew that to realise the full potential of the business, further expansion would be necessary.”

Having previously received grant funding, Ivan was already tuned in to the benefits of such financing options and kept in regular contact with Mandy Swain, a Senior Business Advisor at Telford & Wrekin Council.

The Marches Building Investment Grant totals £2.5m and is open to businesses across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin that need to fund extensions, renovations or reconfigurations of commercial premises. All projects receiving funding through the scheme must be completed by August 2019.

Speaking of the application process, Ivan continues: “Applying for this latest funding was relatively straightforward given we’d previously gone through a similar application process. That said, the support we received from Caroline Cattle and her team was exceptional and has made a tangible difference to our business.

“The simple reality is, that without this grant we’d have needed to consider alternative funding streams and it’s unlikely that we’d have been able to progress before another three to five years.”

For Coopers Gourmet Foods, receiving the grant not only means increased production space, a discrete temperature-controlled packing area and more frozen storage facilities, but also the ability to increase its product range and, in doing so, its headcount.

Caroline Cattle, MBIG Programme Manager, comments: “To have the opportunity to once again work with Ivan and his team as his business continues to grow and diversify has been a real honour and serves as a perfect example of the difference this funding makes.

“Whilst Ivan’s vision for expanding his workforce stood at five extra full-time employees, the introduction of a twilight shift to deliver the expanded product range, means this has already been exceeded and I don’t doubt that Coopers will continue to go from strength to strength. I’d urge other interested businesses to apply as soon as possible in order to complete work before the programme’s conclusion next summer.”

LEP Director Gill Hamer adds: “Coopers Gourmet Foods is a truly local success story. That they’ve already exceeded their targets for increased employment bodes well for continued growth and I don’t doubt that their vision to increase turnover by 10% annually will soon be realised.”

Open to businesses trading with other businesses (B2B), the scheme awards grants of up to 45% of the total project costs (to a maximum £100,000) and are intended to cover conversion and alteration costs. They cannot be used towards purchasing property, equipment, or ‘excessive’ landscaping costs. Nor can they be made retrospectively.

Applicants to the Marches Building Investment Grant can be either owner-occupiers or tenants although for the latter, they must have a fixed term lease with at least six years unexpired.

Residential property is exempt from the scheme as are buildings used for agricultural, horticultural, retail or hospitality purposes.

The scheme is expected to attract up to £3m in private sector investment in the region and lead to the creation of 130 jobs. It has been part funded by the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme, 2014-2020.

Herefordshire Council is the accountable body for the scheme. Full details are available from Caroline Cattle and Alison Rogers on mbig@herefordshire.gov.uk or by calling the Marches Growth Hub team on 0345 6000 727.

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