Agenda item

Food Centre Wales


Consideration was given to the report related to Food Centre Wales built by Ceredigion County Council at Horeb, Llandysul, and opened in 1996, to provide technical support for the food industry in Ceredigion as well as Mid and South-West Wales. Its location, being accessible to rural, farming communities in Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire highlights one of its key objectives, which is to support farming businesses that wished to diversify into added-value processing. Food Centre Wales provides technical services to business start-ups, SMEs and national food manufacturers.


Food Centre Wales has formed a partnership with another two food technology centres in Wales, located in Llangefni and Cardiff to provide Wales-wide support for the food industry. An overview of the current provision including a focus on the Helix project and the impact on the economy was provided. Since 2016, the Food Centre Wales team has delivered good results through the HELIX project against the targets set. It was noted that the table included in the report did not reflect the full volume of support provided as they were only able to include the first intervention provided to businesses, although many returned a few times a year.


In terms of the future, Ceredigion County Council purchased a further 5 acres of land adjacent to the current estate in 2019 at Horeb to facilitate future growth plans. Two projects were currently being developed and assessed for inclusion in the Growth Deal programme for Mid Wales:

i.      The establishment of a Food Manufacturing Innovation Centre would bring state-of-the-art, industrial-scale pilot facilities aimed at enabling the growth of more mid-sized food manufacturing businesses in Mid Wales.

ii.     The provision of grow-on food manufacturing facilities, building on the current incubator units at Food Centre Wales.


These developments would further enhance the provision of services for the agri-food sector in Ceredigion, which was key to its economic well-being and would help to future-proof the facility and its long-term relevance and viability. There were also exciting developments by other projects in the Growing Mid Wales Growth Deal namely AberInnovation and Tir Glas, which would complement Food Centre Wales. The Centre had been awarded a 2-year extension of core budget, but there was no certainty following this.


Members were provided with the opportunity to ask questions which were answered by the Officers present. The main points raised were as follows:

·       It was noted that the Centre were able to support businesses from outside Wales commercially, but only businesses from Wales were able to benefit from the Helix project, which was the focus at present.

·       Most businesses who accessed support were based in Mid and South-West Wales. Rachel’s Diary and other businesses that had received support early on in their journey continued to access support as they grew. As businesses expanded, there was greater demand for expertise rather than generic support. In addition, due to the current economic climate, businesses were exploring ways to reduce costs and rather than testing any changes in processes at their base, preferred to do so at the Centre to avoid disruptions to production.

·       Many from the dairy sector had diversified and sold milk directly, with some businesses starting their journey at the Centre. Given the current financial challenges, more dairy farmers may decide to add value to their product. By utilizing the support from the Centre, they would be able to explore options without investing too much initially, before deciding whether or not it was the best option for them.

·       Members raised concerns that only 2 years of funding had been provided at present. Officers clarified that the Helix project had been delivered through the European Union initially for 5 years and the Welsh Government had provided one extension of core funding followed by the latest 2-year extension. Regular discussions were held with Officers and Ministers and the Centre delivered against the targets set which was positive. Plans were being developed in the event no further funding would be provided. In addition, the Centre’s focus would have to be more commercial in nature, which may impact smaller businesses as there would be a greater focus on maximising income. 

·       It was noted that Cardiff Metropolitan University was one of Food Innovation Wales’s partners. There was an aspiration to work with students who were eager to develop a career in the sector, and this would be an area of improvement in moving forward.

·       Concerns were raised that successful businesses had relocated from Ceredigion to other parts of the country due to tax purposes and recruitment challenges in the past. It was noted that the Centre had an ambition to work with businesses of all sizes to understand more and one business in particular had been central to the development of Food Centre Wales and their vision for the future.

·       Currently, there was not enough space at the Centre for businesses to develop on-site and it was challenging at times. Businesses tended to move to farm buildings or industrial estates, but usually, work needed to be carried out to ensure the facilities were suitable for food production. One of the key elements of the Growth Deal was to expand on the provision available to meet the demand to enable businesses to develop.

·       Design and marketing were considered key for businesses. Food Centre Wales worked closely with Business Wales and marketing specialist Cywain, a project run by Menter and Busnes. Welcoming sessions were arranged jointly between the three projects regularly for new businesses. In terms of business credibility, checks were carried out and work was undertaken to ensure products were viable and there was a market before further work was done.


Following questions by the Committee Members, it was agreed to note the report and to undertake a site visit to further review the site’s work and its future plans.

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