A company bringing us a convenient breakfast option is the latest to benefit from a Berkshire focused loan scheme funded by the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), set to help businesses prosper and bring new jobs to the county.
Lacka Foods, based in Maidenhead, was established in March 2012 and by November had launched its Be Fast cereal drink, the first in the UK. Unlike a yoghurt drink or cereal bar, the Be Fast recipe has been carefully developed by nutrition experts to ensure that it includes more fibre and protein than a bowl of milk and cereal, keeping consumers fuller for longer and targeting the increasing numbers of consumers who are seeking the convenience necessitated by busy lifestyles but who are also health and nutrition aware.
Austin Bailey, Managing Director of Lacka Foods says: “since childhood I, along with much of the UK, have been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but I’ve never been a ‘breakfast person’. I know I should eat breakfast but either because I don’t have the time or I just don’t fancy a big bowl of cereal, I’ve always had a tendency to skip it.”
Austin is not alone. In fact over half of the UK population claims not to eat breakfast, and of those who do, one in ten eat it on the move or at their desk.
Austin continues: “there are many foods that people eat in place of a proper breakfast – I’ve seen people on the bus at 8am eating anything from a piece of fruit to a bag of crisps, but many would prefer to have something that they know is meeting their nutritional needs and is going to fill them up for the morning.”
With an extensive background in the food and drink industry, having spent much of the last two decades working in global fast moving consumer goods brands including Coca-Cola, Evian and General Mills, Austin was well positioned to exploit what he could see as a gap in the UK market.
Since inception last year, the company has succeeded in establishing Be Fast as the UK’s premier cereal drink, with strong sales in a major supermarket chain nationwide and Austin is now keen to expand into other retailers and wholesalers. To achieve this, the company has been successful in its application for a £200,000 expansion loan from the Thames Valley Berkshire Funding Escalator, a £7.3 million scheme aiming to increase jobs and prosperity in the region.
As well as assisting Lacka Foods to extend its network of vendors, the loan will support the overall sales, marketing and advertising of the product, helping the Be Fast brand to penetrate the cereal market. To enable this, five new jobs will be created at the Be Fast base in Maidenhead.
Ian Baker, Senior Fund Manager at FSE C.I.C. which is managing the funding escalator comments: “this company has achieved a great deal over the last year in terms of product development and initial sales and we are thrilled to be supporting them in their next phase of development, expanding product reach and increasing staffing levels. This is just the kind of expansion the scheme is here to support and we hope it will be the start of a long and successful journey.”
Funded by Thames Valley Berkshire LEP in response to the difficulties business face in obtaining funding, the funding escalator provides finance to SMEs through a series of repayable loans across three complementary but distinct loan schemes: business expansion, commercialisation and growth.
Providing loans between £25,000 and £200,000 to eligible businesses following a robust due diligence process, where serviceability can be demonstrated and there are prospects of job creation, the scheme is able to consider deals that may not fit conventional bank lending criteria.