Free-from food brand invests £2m in new factory

Kirsty’s, a Yorkshire-based “free-from” food brand, has invested £2m in a new factory to help the business achieve its target of doubling in size within three years.

The factory, located in Harrogate, will give Kirsty’s the capability to produce 20 million ready meals per year as well as scope for other categories such as soups, pies and sauces.

The allergen free site, which has been a dream for owner Kirsty Henshaw since she first founded the business 10 years ago, will enable the brand to move away from co-manufacturers, where free-from new product development can be problematic.

Kirsty Henshaw

Managing director Henshaw said: “From the very first day I started the business I have always wanted to own my own factory, it was a goal I always wanted to achieve.

“Up until now we have worked with hand-picked manufacturers, and whilst this has given the brand security and an easier route to market over the years it didn’t give me the flexibility and control over my own destiny that I’ve always craved.

“Now the factory is up and running I’m looking forward to this new chapter in Kirsty’s history.

“The fact that we will have the capability to produce 20 million free-from ready meals a year, and be able to explore new product development like never before is something that excites me and everyone else working for the brand.”

The launch of the new factory hasn’t come without its challenges.

Since taking ownership in January, Henshaw has had to juggle the day-to-day running of the business, oversee the project team building the factory and set up a new family home for her children all while the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting lockdown took place.

Peter Jones, from Dragons’ Den, with Kirsty Henshaw

She added: “Fortunately food manufacturing is defined as key work, therefore during lockdown we have been able to keep pressing forward with the business. I’m extremely proud to have been able to supply free-from ready meals to millions of families during this testing period.

“It certainly has been one of the most challenging, stressful and emotional few months of my life but we managed to make it to the other side and I can now start to enjoy the hard work myself and the team have put in.

“We’re looking forward to sharing what the new factory will bring to the brand.”

Her business started 10 years ago, originating in her long search for free from food options that her son would be able to enjoy, after discovering he had several allergies.

Henshaw went on to enter Dragon’s Den in 2010 and worked with Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne for the following three years.

The brand, which is now worth £11m, sells a range of chilled ready meals, frozen pizzas and frozen desserts which are always gluten & dairy free and are now stocked in every major supermarket in the UK.