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Published date 22 October 2021

Royal opening for food and drink centre

Princess Anne at SW FoodWorks
Image credit: North Somerset Council

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening of The Food WorksSW in Weston-super-Mare today.

Before unveiling the plaque Her Royal Highness toured the food and drink innovation centre to see the state-of-the-art facilities available to businesses. She met tenants and users of the centre who were able to showcase their products and demonstrate some of the specialist equipment used in the development of those products, including gelato, salsa, kefir water, vegan cheese, deli items, brownies, chilli sauces, high protein cookies, frozen ready meals and curry dishes.

During her visit The Princess Royal also had the opportunity to meet key individuals who formed the North Somerset Together Partnership as part of North Somerset’s response during the Covid-19 pandemic. This group rapidly built key partnerships with community groups, town and parish councils and local faith groups to ensure residents received the support they needed from within their local community.

Image credit: North Somerset Council
Image credit: North Somerset Council

The Food WorksSW, located in the heart of the Junction 21 Enterprise Area next to the M5 motorway, is the only centre of its kind in the South West.

It was developed by North Somerset Council following feedback from food and drink producers on the type of facilities and support that wasn't available or easily accessible to them anywhere in the region. For many this limited their ability to grow their business, create jobs and help better promote the region for food and drink.

Funded by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) through the Local Growth Fund, the £11m centre was built by Willmott Dixon and is operated on behalf of the council by Nottingham-based The Food and Drink Forum.

It opened in April last year, just before the first national lockdown. Despite the challenges and difficulties faced over the last 18 months as a result of the pandemic, it is now running at full capacity providing the specialist equipment and support needed for food and drink businesses of all sizes to test, develop and manufacture their products.

All 12 of its food-grade units are let with a variety of businesses and its five product development kitchens are in regular use. The centre also includes meeting rooms, a café and conference facilities to host food-related events and workshops.

Image credit: North Somerset Council
Image credit: North Somerset Council

"Food WorksSW is playing a vital part in the council's drive to stimulate growth in the local economy by helping new businesses to start up and giving established businesses the opportunity to grow and innovate," said Cllr Don Davies, Leader of North Somerset Council.

"Given the Covid-19 crisis over the last 18 months, to be already operating at full capacity is a remarkable achievement and will provide the demand for phase two of the project. This will provide vital grow-on space for tenants who have outgrown their initial units and offer more established businesses in the region larger food-grade business units."

“Today has been a great opportunity to showcase the fantastic food and drink produce on offer, not only by tenants here onsite, but also the South West as a whole," said Rachel Goff, Site and Technical Manager at The Food WorksSW. "It is hugely exciting to see the businesses within our network not only bounce back from the impacts of the pandemic but to thrive and innovate.”

‘’The Food and Drink Forum is proud to have been selected as the preferred partner to North Somerset Council in the development of The Food WorksSW project," said Peter Knight, Chairman of The Food and Drink Forum

"This is the third project of its kind currently managed by the forum and will go a long way towards developing the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in the food sector of the South West. The provision of buildings and facilities specifically designed for the needs of a growing food business has been proven to be a significant factor in their future success.’’

Neil Douglas, West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) board member, said: “It was an honour to welcome Her Royal Highness to see for herself the jewel in the crown of our region’s fantastic food and drink sector. The Local Enterprise Partnership is proud to support The Food WorksSW centre of excellence – which is helping both start-ups and established businesses alike with the experience and equipment they need to innovate and grow.”

Image credit: North Somerset Council
Image credit: North Somerset Council

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