Friars Mill’s sister site, which specialises in helping local food and drink firms develop, recently celebrated its first anniversary. The £5.8m Leicester Food Park, which was officially opened by City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and Leicester East MP Keith Vaz on 4 February 2015, aims to support new start-up businesses, provide space for existing food and drink businesses to grow and create dozens of new jobs.
Its three steel-framed buildings – developed close to a business park off Lewisher Road – house nine high-quality units, ranging in size from 1,000 to 5,000 sq ft.
Commissioned by Leicester City Council, the park is managed by East Midlands Chamber*, working in partnership with the Food & Drink Forum. It was financed with £3.4m from the European Regional Development Fund, with the city council contributing a further £2.4m.
Sir Peter said: “We knew that demand for specialist food units in Leicester would be strong, but the response we’ve had to the Food Park has exceeded our expectations.
“While it’s early days for some of the tenants, who are still working on getting their production up and running, others are already operating around the clock.
“It’s clearly been a good first year for the Food Park – and I’m sure that its success will help cement Leicester’s position as a place where food and drink businesses can set up and thrive.”
Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles added: “The food and drink sector has a strong capacity to grow and this fabulous facility has demonstrated over the past year they key role it can play in helping the sector to develop, by giving start-up firms the opportunity to take on their own premises and existing firms the ability to upscale.
“From an inward investment point of view, it also has the potential to attract firms from outside of the East Midlands to set up and do business in Leicester. I think the response from tenants and the fact we have been at pretty much full occupancy for the whole year shows just how much demand there is for a facility like this.”
The Food & Drink Forum’s Judith Shakesby is the park’s Office and Premises Manager. She said: “We’re delighted with the way the first year has gone, it gives us an excellent foundation on which to build for the future.
“Many small businesses are not aware what we offer or where to go for food and drink support locally. We are happy to be on hand offering this vital support and increasing awareness within the food and drink sector.
“Companies of all sizes are benefitting from that resource as well as participating in localised training and development workshops on-site.”
The latest tenant to be welcomed to the site is luxury wedding, private party and corporate events company Stones Events, which took Unit 46 on the park in January.
It joined fellow tenants, Colombian coffee merchant Shelton’s Imports, instant tea manufacturer Royaltea, Moroccan olive oil products manufacturer Alassala, hospitality services provider Odd John & Family, Indian cheese (paneer) manufacturer Ukay Khoa, ice cream and sorbet maker Bawdon Lodge, Chinese meat and poultry producer RJC Trading and sliced and filleted chicken producer The meat Shoppe.
Stones Events celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. It works with an array of clients and businesses, supporting product launches, press events, weddings and private parties.
Tom Goodwin, CEO and founder, said: “The move to Leicester Food Park was key for us in developing our business. It has increased our profile amongst like-minded businesses and opened up new opportunities within associated networks. The park is purpose-built, ensuring all requirements are adequately met, the 24-hour security is a great and brings real peace of mind.
“2016 welcomes our ten year anniversary which will celebrate the journey of unrivalled food, valuable clients, beautiful venues and loyal partners, all who have contributed to the applauded success of Stones Events.”
For more information, visit www.leicesterfoodpark.co.uk .