Sweetdreams secures key regional funding to boost UK chocolate manufacturing


British confectionery company Sweetdreams Ltd has expanded its ranks and improved its operations thanks to a £92,000 grant from the North of Tyne Combined Authority, reports Neill Barston.

The cash injection is expected to enable the Northumberland-based company to create a total of ten new positions across the business, as well as expand its manufacturing footprint. This comes as the company has invested heavily in additional chocolate packaging and processing lines.

As Confectionery Production recently reported in an exclusive feature and video interview with the company, as it secured a major supplier deal with Colombian Luker Chocolate for its new line of Choc Nibbles bars, which we have reported at this year’s key global confectionery ISM event in Cologne, Germany. .

Since its founding in 1998 by husband and wife team Matthew and Cath Stephenson, the business has steadily grown to increase both its UK presence and its exports to European markets.

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The company’s new funding comes from the North Tyne Growth Fund, spun off from the North of Tyne Combined Authority, led by Metro Mayor Jamie Driscoll, and the European Regional Development Fund. This allowed the company to hire new employees and ensure the delivery of its expanded production capacities, including lines dedicated to vegan and plant-based offerings.

Matt Stephenson said: “This is the first time we’ve had support. Our range of chocolate bars would not have been possible without NTCA’s investment. We have something exciting here, and the new funding has taken the pressure off. I have some very good people here and I’m proud to be in Northumberland.

“In addition to our ability to offer chocolate-covered confections, we now have a state-of-the-art drop-off line capable of producing plain bars, bars with inclusions and even plant-based vegan options. explained the managing director, whose company includes Confectionery Production board member Andy Baxendale (below, photo right), who serves as technical director of its production operations in Cramlington .

For Stephenson, manufacturing runs in his blood. His father had two successful packaging businesses in the North East and inspired the entrepreneur in him. He has seen his own business grow considerably, with the Choc Nibbles brand becoming one of the favorite brands across the UK. “I don’t want to take over the world. I just like doing things,” he added of his passion for the industry.

During a recent visit, the mayor-elect saw the chocolate production process in full effect, meeting workers at the company’s offices and at the factory – including some of the new employees funded by the NTCA award.

Among those hired into the company is Darren Andrews, who has joined the company in a brand new role. A former auto mechanic, he is now trained in the production and maintenance of high-speed, high-quality production lines. At the end of his training, he will be an expert chocolatier, who will then be able to pass on his knowledge to other new recruits.

Speaking about his career change, Andrews said: “Having many years of experience as a mechanic, this opportunity allows me to apply my existing skills to the engineering department, while giving me insight into a skill exciting and quite rare, to be a chocolatier. Sweet Dreams has big plans – and it’s great that I’m a part of it, from the very beginning”

As previously reported, the company is now able to expand its manufacturing space in a new nearby factory, installing power outlets for machinery, creating four new production lines – these will include greater capacity for deposition, injection molding as well as hollow mold technology, linked to its new series of Choc Nibbles bars.

Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: ‘No one wants to see local businesses evicted from our main streets and business parks. That’s why we created the North of Tyne Growth Fund. We want to help local small and medium-sized businesses to grow, to create jobs, to give money back to our region.

“It’s been great to see how Sweetdreams are thriving with the support of North of Tyne funding. I can’t wait to see what happens next for them.

Being a small family business in a space dominated by global brands has helped the Stephensons carve out the niche for Sweet Dreams, working with everyone from large High Street retailers to smaller, more creative and innovative independent brands.

With “White Label” products – made for other companies – accounting for around 40% of Sweet Dreams releases, their size means they can take on smaller, more creative tasks that big companies would turn down: “If someone wants to put unicorns on 5,000 bars, we have that capability,” added its managing director.

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