Food ingredient supplier EHL has expanded into a new facility to help increase stock levels and productivity on the back of 'extensive growth' in the last year.
The UK-based company has invested £300,000 (€358,000) in the new 6,000 square metre site near its existing premises, allowing for a larger blending machine to be installed. The expansion will enhance productivity, the speed and efficiency of orders and improve its capacity to deal with large orders, said the firm.
EHL, an importer, blender and packer of food ingredients, reported that sales increased by 10% and the company hit its £5.6 million (€6.7m) sales target at the end of 2013.
In particular it has seen a 30% increase in orders for nutmeg, chilli, pepper, mint and cumin. Overall, demand for its allergen-free ingredients has increased by 20% over the last year. Its blends include mustard and celery-free curry powder and sesame-free Italian seasoning, which saw sales increase 30%.
Tasneem Backhouse, sales and marketing director, EHL Ingredients, expects this trend to continue. She puts it down to an increase in self-diagnosis of food allergies and intolerances; the popularity of free-from diets; and the increase in NPD in this sector with some products becoming mainstream and having a broader appeal in the marketplace.
At the same time reports on the global season and spice market have highlighted the growing popularity of ethnic cuisine, increased health awareness and the trend for home cooking inspired by restaurant dishes with new and exotic flavours.
Speaking to Foodnavigator.com, Backhouse said : "As a result, food manufacturers have to go the extra mile to keep up with demand, developing unique, high quality flavour combinations and end products consumers will love.
"This would explain the growing demand we’ve seen at EHL for our allergen-free ingredients, as well as a 30% increase in orders for nutmeg, chilli, pepper, mint and cumin.
"Organic is also a key area of growth for us, with sales increasing year-on-year."
The UK organic sector grew 2.8% in 2013, its first annual increase in eight years.
Backhouse added: "Our key areas of growth are predicted to be within our herb and spice blends and organic food ingredients."
EHL supplies over 300 ingredients (around 200 in the organic range) directly to food manufacturers, and indirectly via wholesalers. They are used in end products, such as breads and bakery items, ready meals, healthy snacks and soups and sauces.
Customers are mainly UK-based but it also sells to Ireland, Malta and Sweden. "There is also potential for us to expand on this in the future," according to Backhouse.
Recent research from Innova Market Insights found that, of the bakery product launches in 2013, the second biggest on-pack claim was allergen related. The third was organic, with 7% of all new bakery products in Europe communicating this. Top of the list was 'no additives' and 'no preservatives'.
Stricter allergen labelling rules are due to be implemented in December as part of EU regulations.