Belfast Telegraph

Keen Nutrition: Rising costs force Co Down butter firm to cease production

By John Mulgrew

A Co Down nut butter company is stopping production and letting seven staff go just two years after it was first set up - blaming spiralling costs for the firm's difficulties.

Keen Nutrition founder Aimee Beimers told the Belfast Telegraph she now needs between £100,000 and £150,000 in order to buy machinery to get the firm going once again.

The company produces a range of nut butters - including peanut and hazelnut - from a small unit in Bangor.

"We have had a quite an incredible run over the past years," Ms Beimers said.

"It has been selling enough, but there is absolutely no margin.

"We have been making it out of the love of the product, and now need to take a step back and look at production.

"At the moment we are producing the product in the same way I did in my kitchen, with no industrialisation."

Bringing an end to production will also mean moving out of the company's current Bangor site, Ms Beimers said.

She said rising costs of ingredients had squeezed out any room for profit.

But despite ceasing production and having to let her seven staff go, she remains confident in securing the required cash injection to get the business going once again.

"We have had about four offers, some more serious than others," she said.

"I think if it doesn't work, I have to make the decision to take on a loan."

She said sales had been strong, and turnover this year was expected to break through the £300,000 mark.

"I almost look at the past two years of business as a successful market test.

"If we have that (funding) we have the opportunity to move from a small business in a hand-to-mouth way, into a medium-sized business.

"I would like to make a decision on securing funding, or deciding to go myself, by the end of the year."

She said seven staff would be out of a job by the end of a September. But she hopes "they can return" if the company gets production up-and-running.

The business was set up in 2013 by Ms Beimers, and in June it was revealed the company had secured a deal to supply top-end London store Harvey Nichols.

Ms Beimers set up Keen Nutrition after working as a nutritional consultant, when she saw a gap in the market.

At the end of last year, the company also received £15,000 from the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund to help grow the firm.

Ms Beimers had said she used her loan to help buy a commercial oven.

She said failing receiving additional funding or securing her own finance, the company "would morph, pivot and look at a different business model and a food product with a higher margin".

Belfast Telegraph