EU and Welsh Government’s Project HELIX fund injects £185M into food and drink sector in Wales

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AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
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A project launched in 2016, funded by the EU and the Welsh Government, has helped develop new products and jobs in the food and drinks sector in Wales.

The most recent figures released by the Welsh Government reveal the project has helped give £185.6M to Welsh businesses, and produced 447 new roles while also protecting an additional 2,306.

The project aims to help Welsh companies in the food and drinks industry create new products with innovative qualities, by supporting the sector from the concept and designing stage to product development and supplying their goods to consumers.

Project HELIX is being delivered by the Welsh food industry’s technical and commercial support Food Innovation Wales, which is situated in three food centres in the country: Anglesey, Ceredigion, and Cardiff.

Following a visit to the Food Technology Centre in Llangefni to find out more about the project Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “The success of Project HELIX shows the importance of collaboration between academia, industry experts, government and producers to boost innovation, create jobs, build skills and launch new businesses.

“As we recover from the pandemic and face the pressing challenges of a changing climate, the ability to innovate and seize new opportunities will be more important than ever to our Welsh food and drink businesses.”

It has been estimated that around 1,240 new products have been created through Project HELIX, and businesses have been able to reach 778 new markets.

Over 380 food and drinks businesses have benefited from the support, with 228 of these being start-ups.

The Aberdare-based ready-meal company which prioritises home-style cooking, Authentic Curries & World Foods, has benefited from the project. They received support from the ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre in Cardiff, where they were advised on basic food safety and internal auditing against BRCGS Food Safety standards. This guidance has allowed them to gain two more customers, create 15 new products, as well as increase their customer retention, by keeping sales of over £500,000.

Director of ZERO2FIVE, Prof. David Lloyd said on behalf of Food Innovation Wales: “Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic have raised important questions over food security and skills availability. An increasing awareness of the climate crisis our planet is facing and the strain of diet-related disease on our communities has also made us take greater notice of the food we eat and where it comes from.

“Whilst these questions pose fundamental challenges for Welsh food and drink manufacturing, they can also provide opportunities for Wales to be at the forefront of positive change. We can lead the way with sustainability, skill-development, a focus on local produce and the promotion of healthier diets.

“This is where Food Innovation Wales is playing a key role. With our range of pan-Wales technical, operational and commercial expertise, we can support Welsh food and drink manufacturers to innovate and be more resilient to the challenges ahead of us,” he added.

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