US export boost for Yarmouth snack foods company

Exports to the US are set to rise significantly at a Norfolk pasta and snack foods firm.

Great Yarmouth-based Pasta Foods, which exports to more than 40 countries worldwide, is hoping to increase its sales to the US from an estimated 400 tonnes this year to about 1,000 tonnes in 2012 thanks to extending a contract with an existing client there.

The increase in exports for the firm comes after a year which saw its turnover remain flat from the previous year, at about �21m in both the year to the end of April 2011 and in 2010.

The firm, based in Pasteur Road, makes pasta and snack pellets, many of which are ingredients for household name ready meals and snacks.

Karl Jermyn, newly appointed managing director (previously the finance director), said the firm had benefited from the weak pound but that rising commodity prices were challenging.

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'The environment has become more challenging,' he said. 'We have benefited from the exchange rate, the weakness of sterling has helped us.'

But he said: 'We have had issues with commodity prices, particularly wheat, potatoes and oil, which have all seen significant growth.'

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The wheat crisis in Russia, the price of oil and a poor potato harvest last year has impacted prices this year.

Wheat had increased in price by 80pc since its May 2010 year end, he said.

The firm has to buy 24,000 tonnes of in a year for its production of pasta. Potato starch had seen a higher rise at 300pc.

While they had made efficiencies it had meant prices of their products had to rise and these would inevitably be seen in the higher prices at supermarkets. However, Mr Jermyn said of the increasing exports across the Atlantic: 'We hope the US will be the next big area for us.'

Pasta Foods' two main lines are pasta and snack pellets.

The pasta is made and then bought and used by food processors for ready meals and tinned pasta products for own label and branded foods.

It is mostly for the domestic market. One of its customers is Uniq, who supply firms including Marks & Spencer.

The snack pellets, or raw potato shapes, are produced using potato granules and starch.

They are then sold to a producer to be turned into shaped crisp type products.

These are 80pc exported. The biggest market is the EU but areas such as the Middle East are also large.

It also exports as far as Japan and Thailand.

Looking ahead, Mr Jermyn said the firm would be continuing to look at new products, especially those with lower salt but also different products and techniques to make them.

Mr Jermyn said despite the cost pressures the firm had in fact increased staffing to 130 (from 127 at the end of 2010).

He took over from Peter Barry as managing director on May 1 after Mr Barry retired.

Mr Jermyn has been at Pasta Foods since 2008. He started his career at Larking Gowen.

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