Essex food firm behind Laila Rice brand bucks Brexit trend with £5m investment
PUBLISHED: 16:38 28 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:20 28 June 2018
The Essex food firm behind Laila Rice is bucking the Brexit trend by investing £5m in an upgrade set to almost double its processing capacity.
Harwich-based Surya Foods’ installation of state-of-the-art Swiss Buhler machinery will take the site’s processing capacity from 10 to 16 tonnes of rice per hour.
The move comes after Laila, the company’s basmati rice brand, celebrated its best year ever in 2017, climbing to a top three place in the UK rice category and achieving the greatest branded growth of the year, up 43.9% (£2.6m), with volumes up 38.9%.
The operations team is midway through the £5m injection, which will also see six new trailers added to the fleet and follows last year’s half a million pound investment in five new Scania trucks.
Two further machines will join Buhler’s Sortex UltraVision optical sorter - an Ulma Packaging machine, which will double packing capacity, and a Symach Palletiser to keep pace with new production outputs.
Brown rice does not attract duty in the UK so the firm imports brown basmati rice and polishes it at Harwich, enabling the business to produce it at a very competitive price.
The family-owned firm, which has a turnover of £125m, is run by brothers Harry and Suki Dulai, and employs more than 1400 people across its Flying Trade Group, based in 30 countries, with 125 at the Harwich headquarters.
Is customers include supermarket giants Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, with around 2,000 products in the Surya range, including South Asian, Korean, Chinese, Thai, West African, Caribbean, African, South American, Polish, Arabic and Mediterranean foods.
Managing director Harry Dulai said it had been a year of “phenomenal growth”, and the investment was necessary to keep pace with demand for Laila Basmati. “The Laila brand remains at the heart of Surya Foods as a business and we will continue to invest heavily to see it grow further,” he said. “Machinery investment in the UK, generally, does appear to have slowed over 2017, which is attributed to Brexit-related uncertainty. However, we are pleased to buck this trend and plough ahead with significant investment in new equipment with ambitious growth plans for the Laila brand as a vote of confidence in both the UK and the local economy.”