Food & Drink
From fudge cubes in ice cream to marshmallow toppings for hot chocolate, Nimbus Foods makes the ingredients that add extra sparkle to our favourite treats — and they’re finding favour as far afield as Australia and South Africa, says Jack Proctor.
Where are we likely to encounter a Nimbus product?
Almost anywhere. Our ingredients are used by all sorts of manufacturers, including major businesses such as Mars and Nestlé. What we’re all about is helping to turn an ordinary product into something extraordinary. Our ingredients and inclusions – such as sugar strands, fudge cubes, honeycomb chips and marshmallows – add texture, flavour and colour.
What influenced Nimbus Foods to opt for a North Wales base?
Originally, we were established as part of a company called Halo Foods, which was a cereal bar manufacturer at Tywyn on the Gwynedd coast. We made ingredients for Halo’s products. Nimbus Foods was spun off as a separate company a few miles away at Dolgellau. We remained part of the same group, but since then Nimbus has been through several changes of ownership. Valeo Foods bought Nimbus last year and has since made significant investments. We’re just planning the next stage of that expansion. We’re in such a specialist, niche market that know-how is more important than facilities or equipment. Lots of our team have worked for Nimbus since the 1990s, and it’s the knowledge of those guys that dictates the quality of our products.
Is sourcing the right people an issue?
We’re the biggest employer in Dolgellau, which has a population of about 2,000 people. We recruit production and administration staff fairly easily in the town, and from a radius of about 20 miles. We do sometimes have to go further afield for more senior positions, but people have always been happy to relocate.
Have you collaborated with local colleges or universities?
We have our own development team, but we also work closely with the Food Technology Centre at Coleg Menai, Llangefni, over on Anglesey. They do a lot of joint development work with us. Innovation is important. Much of what we do is driven by the customer, who will come to us with a detailed brief of what they’re looking for. For example, an ice cream manufacturer might ask for a fudge to put into ice cream that will stay soft and chewy. We’ll start working with those ideas, and then present back to them so that they can select the option they want to take forward.
How important are export sales?
If you go back two or three years, the split between our overseas and UK sales was 20 versus 80 per cent. That has been changing. One of my strategies since joining Nimbus has been to find new markets abroad, and now the export to UK split is around 40:60. We sell to 29 different countries around the world, including Australia, Mauritius and South Africa. We’re expecting that in the next few years, export sales will keep growing, moving the split to around 60:40. That’s to say, our UK sales will remain steady, but we’ll achieve growth in our export sales.
How did you find these overseas markets for your products?
The key to our success has been having a presence at the big international food exhibitions. Last autumn we were part of the Welsh delegation at the Salon International de l’Alimentation (SIAL) in Paris, which is the world’s biggest food innovation exhibition. The Welsh Government has been extremely helpful, subsidising the cost of going along to events like SIAL. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to take part: we’re a small company, and funds are limited. When I first joined, we didn’t go to these exhibitions, but since 2014 we’ve probably done 14 or 15. You go to these events with meetings planned in advance, but people will also just walk up to the stand and introduce themselves with a view to sourcing new suppliers. It’s very worthwhile.