A multi-million pound investment in a factory which already employs over 600 is set to grow business, boost Fakenham’s economy – and keep chocolate lovers happy the world over.
Kinnerton Confectionery Company has plans to significantly increase the size of its Oxborough Lane site by building a 25,000 square foot extension on adjoining land recently acquired. Work on the project is due to start this summer for completion by April 2015, when the South Creake operation will move into the same factory.
The 91 employees who carry out packaging at South Creake will join the Fakenham team which at present numbers 609. During the busy season from August through to March, the factory can employ up to 300 temporary staff.
“With the extension to the factory, everything will be brought into one place and it will give us the space we need for manufacturing,” said Gordon Chetwood, site director. “It will give us the capacity for sales to match the product requirement. This extension will give us a minimum of five years sales growth with potential for more.
“It will see a gradual increase in the number of jobs. Our staff has already increased by over a hundred in the last two or three years. We have an excellent workforce who are really committed and we want to continue to grow here.” He said many employees had a long-serving record having been there “man and boy”.
Group engineering manager Chris Brown is the project leader in charge of the development of the extension and responsible for fitting it out with hi-tech machinery, which will enable manufacturing to increase significantly. He said: “This development shows commitment to Fakenham and to the local economy. The new extension will give us a great deal of sales capacity.”
With Easter just around the corner, its 25 million chocolate eggs of all sizes are filling shop shelves in the UK and overseas. Its main global markets include Australia, Canada, America, South Africa, Japan and parts of Europe, including France where the company also has a small base.
In April, Kinnerton starts work on chocolate-filled advent calendars and produces about ten million for its customers.
“We are already preparing for Easter 2016, “ said Mr Chetwood. “We have 1,250 live products all year round and next year, 700 of these will be new products. We always look to create new products and are constantly researching new ideas and packaging. We have a design studio in London and a team which works on ideas such as shapes, flavours and fillings. The development part of the business is a key element.”
Each year the factory processes 10,000 tonnes of chocolate, and, with the necessary licences, it can be transformed into virtually any shape. Some of Kinnerton’s success stories are sweet friends such as Peppa Pig, Thomas the Tank Engine, Preston Penguin and the Hello Kitty range.
Last year it triumphed with its launch of ice-cream flavoured chocolate bars, Magnum, Cornetto and Mini-Milk, for which it won the Innovation and Design Award at The Manufacturer’s Awards 2013.
Kinnerton, which last year had a turnover of £75 million, takes its role in the community seriously and works with local schools mentoring students. In particular, it goes out to Litcham High School each year for a “chocolate challenge”, where students have to go through the process of inventing and developing a new product. Last year’s Monster bar was such a success, that the factory made up a small batch, with labels bearing the names of the pupils who had designed them.
Kinnerton also supports Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House as its chosen charity and will donate 1,000 staff hours this year to help the charity with fundraising events.