Health on the shelf, Manufacturing Growth Programme helps Dragon’s Den winner to meet Net Zero demands | Manufacturing Growth Programme

Worthenshaw’s, trading as Kirsty’s was founded over 10 years ago. The business was created when business owner; Kirsty Henshaw discovered her son Jacob was allergic to nuts and intolerant to gluten and dairy.

After the initial panic and worry, Kirsty Henshaw began exploring free-from food options and soon realised that many of the food products that were safe for him to eat were not particularly healthy. That’s when Kirsty realised, she had created something that could be sold to other people.

Kirsty initially launched her business selling ice-cream in health food shops across the UK. However, trying to juggle work, parenthood and making ice-cream, Kirsty took a leap of faith and entered the Dragons Den in 2010. Kirsty Henshaw was the youngest entrepreneur to receive funding from the Dragons with her range of free-from and ice cream alternatives. Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones were keen to take a stake in the business and helped to launch nationally in major supermarkets.

In July 2012, it was announced that Worthenshaw’s had rebranded to Kirsty’s with a focus on chilled adult ready meals. After the successful launch of Kirsty’s frozen meals (originally under a co-manufacturer agreement) Kirsty acquired a factory of her own which became operational in July 2020.

Their large UK retail client announced in January that having a plan in place to get to net zero by 2050 was a requirement of all suppliers by the end of 2022. As a small supplier – new to manufacturing – and who manufacturers complex products with a large amount of ingredients, processes, and distribution; this posed a significant challenge. To keep the business with their client it was a challenge that they needed to get to grips with; quickly.

To develop an understanding of carbon reporting the business reached out to the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP). MGP was able to help Kirsty’s to find an environmental consultant who was experienced in complex food manufacturing. MGP part funded an environmental audit, with the support of MGP Growth Manager Shaughan Farrow, the project was able to move with pace.

Natalie Parker, Marketing Director for Kirsty’s commented, “I found the advisor and the Manufacturing Growth Programme very easy to work with, very understanding of the challenges of business and very eager to help!”

The MGP support has helped to secure their business deal with the large UK retailer. Since MGP’s involvement earlier this year, Kirsty’s has been able to take on 18 new members of staff! The chilled meals business is now worth over £15m at RSV. The business proudly sells an award-winning range meals which are always gluten & dairy free and are a ‘life-line’ to consumers suffering with allergies.

Kirsty’s is working towards being a £25m business within the next 3 years by increasing their brand awareness. Their plans include building upon their ‘brand credentials’ which will help to affirm their commitment to being an environmentally conscious manufacturing business.

Shaughan Farrow, Manufacturing Growth Manager for MGP stated, “The Covid-19 pandemic impacted businesses across the UK but Kirsty’s was still able to grow its turnover by more than 11%. Bearing in mind Kirsty set up her business with the remnants from her student loan, when Kirsty says she has set her sights on reaching a turnover of £25m within the next three years, who is not to believe that will happen. This business really is a success story for other budding entrepreneurs, recognising a need in the market based on a personal situation, having an idea, and also having the guts to go for it!”

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