A food blending firm, whose clients have products on the shelves of nearly all major supermarkets, has been given support from the Food and Drink iNet to help overhaul its IT system and improve customer service.

FoodBlenders, based in Market Harborough and now in its 13th year of trading, is a bespoke manufacturer of seasonings, sauces and gravy powders.

The firm supplies pie and ready meal manufacturers, meat processors, bakeries and other food and drink manufacturers throughout the UK. FoodBlenders’ products are included in a large range of finished goods, many of which can be found in all the major multiples, including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda and Tesco.

Now FoodBlenders has successfully applied for support from the Food and Drink iNet so it can further develop its IT system to streamline and simplify its internal systems and allow it to collate technical information in whatever format customers require, at the touch of a button.

FoodBlenders was awarded innovation advice and guidance worth nearly £3,600 by the Food and Drink iNet. The company will now match that amount with its own investment.

“It is fantastic to have received this support from the iNet,” said Liz Halstead, FoodBlenders’ finance director. “Their advisor was excellent and gave us a lot of support and guidance and we were delighted to be successful in our application. They made their decision as to whether we would get an award very promptly, which has allowed us to move ahead with the project immediately.”

The £7,000 plus IT project got underway at the end of 2010 and marked the second milestone in six months for FoodBlenders. In July, the firm was awarded an A grade BRC accreditation (British Retail Consortium), which has already provided many new opportunities for the company.

Dominic Forty, production director for FoodBlenders, said: “Since gaining this accreditation we have already brought on board several new, large national customers and are excited about the potential for the future.”

FoodBlenders sources its ingredients from the UK, Europe and throughout the world and is a member of Valid IT, which ensures top quality ingredients and traceability, both of which are crucial within the food industry. The company has an on-site product development facility, and the highly trained technical staff, led by technical manager Dianne Collins, are able to provide bespoke blends to suit each customer’s demands. This can range from matching an existing product in the marketplace, or coming up with new and exciting recipes to suit each individual customer’s brief. Once a recipe has been approved by a client, it is then confidential and unique to that customer.

FoodBlenders also manufactures a complete range of gluten-free bakery products, including the Dietary Specials range, which is found in the frozen ready meals section in several major supermarkets.

The iNet helps food and drink firms engage expertise from academia, research institutions and specialist business advice for innovation projects to develop new ideas, new products, new processes and to help companies grow. 50% of the equivalent cash value of the support must be contributed by the company.

Andrew Butterwick, Food and Drink iNet director, said he was happy to support FoodBlenders: “With its new BRC award in place, FoodBlenders is really taking off as a company, so we were more than happy to support its development in this way.”

Funded by East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Food and Drink iNet co-ordinates innovation support for businesses, universities and individuals working in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands. One of four regional iNets, it has developed an effective network to link academic and private sector expertise and knowledge with local food and drink business innovation needs.

The Food and Drink iNet also aims to build on the tradition of innovation in the food and drink industry in the region by helping to create opportunities to develop knowledge and skills, and to help research, develop and implement new products, markets, services and processes. It is managed by a consortium, led by the Food & Drink Forum and including Food Processing Faraday, Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham. It is based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, with advisors covering the East Midlands region.

For more information visit www.eminnovation.org.uk/food