SMALL food businesses in County Durham are being given the opportunity to test whether they really want to expand, without forking out for expensive equipment first.
’Kitchen table’ enterprises in the North Pennine Dales area will be able to use a £25,000 industrial standard test kitchen, which is being fitted at Woodleigh in Barnard Castle.
The initiative is part of the Love Food project, which supports the production, promotion, use and appreciation of locally grown or reared food throughout Teesdale, Weardale, the Allen Valleys and Derwentside.
Sue Berresford, principal project manager for Durham County Council, said: “In addition to providing temporary accommodation for the Witham box office and community activities, Woodleigh has shown potential to provide additional commercial space.
“And facilitating provision of a test production kitchen in support of the local food economy provides maximum flexibility for the future.”
Small food businesses will be able to apply to use the kitchen ‘incubator’ for up to nine months, to find out whether they are suited to working on a larger scale.
At the end of the period, they will be in a better position to decide whether they want to move to larger scale production on their own or whether they want to remain as a small producer.
Love Food director Hazel Coppack said: “Many small businesses produce their goods – it could be jams, cakes, sweets, pastries, meat products – literally on their kitchen table or similar.
“Many of them would like to expand, but worry about whether the investment in industrial standard equipment and new premises would be worthwhile. What we are offering is the opportunity to test out the market.”
Interested businesses can take a tour of the test kitchen at Woodleigh on Tuesday, July 24, from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.
Those interested in applying for a place must be located in the project area, source as many of their ingredients as possible locally and be looking to expand their business.
Those selected will be charged rent for their premises and utilities, because these are considered key determining factors in helping to gauge the viability of larger scale production.
Businesses interested in using the facility should contact Hazel Coppack by calling 01833 631870 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for a registration of interest form.
Ms Coppack said that submitting a form does not place any obligation upon an interested party.