Healthy food firm near Harrogate looks to take on 50 staff

A healthy food brand is looking to take on dozens more employees as it prepares to double the capacity of its Harrogate factory.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 11:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 11:25 pm
Kirsty Henshaw, founder of Harrogate-based Kirsty's, the 'free-from' brand of healthy food products.

Kirsty’s, which specialises in gluten-free, dairy-free and wheat-free ready-meals, grew its turnover by 11 per cent in 2021, and founder Kirsty Henshaw is now setting her sights on new product ranges and increased sales.

Ms Henshaw founded her company, Worthenshaws, from her kitchen table in 2009 in Preston after discovering her son was allergic to nuts and intolerant to gluten and dairy.

In 2010, she appeared on TV’s Dragon’s Den and secured £130,000 from investors Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones in return for 15 per cent of the company each.

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The firm rebranded to Kirsty’s in 2012 and relocated to new £2m premises on Springfield Farm Business Park at Kettlesing last year. Its customers include Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose and Morrisons.

Despite Brexit and Covid, Ms Henshaw insists her firm is on track to turn over £25m by 2024.

“Brexit hit us really hard,” she said. “We had to stockpile, which resulted in a negative cash-flow. With Covid on top it meant we had two nightmares to deal with.”

But she added: “When things go wrong I learn from it and make it better. Things that are negative I see as opportunities.”

She plans to double the size of the factory and is on track to recruit 50 people by the end of March. She is even considering providing transport to help people reach the factory, near Menwith Hill.

The firm is set to establish a new takeaway range this year and Ms Henshaw said moving to Yorkshire was a positive move for her business. “The staff we get, we retain. It is a beautiful location and we are now well established. I would not move from this area. The area is a perfect fit for us.”

Asked what her hopes for 2022 were, she said: “As little drama as possible. We have invested in new kit so we will be able to make double what we currently make. Up to now, we had huge sales but not the capability. We are now a recognised name and people know and trust the brand and what we stand for.”