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Leading food manufacturer partners with University of Leicester to help drive manufacturing excellence

06 January 2016

Left to Right: Dr Alex Goddard (University of Leicester - Department of Chemistry), students Phillip Ming Fung and Julie Ho, Katie Wybrant (Process Technologist at Fresh-Pak Chilled Foods).
Left to Right: Dr Alex Goddard (University of Leicester - Department of Chemistry), students Phillip Ming Fung and Julie Ho, Katie Wybrant (Process Technologist at Fresh-Pak Chilled Foods).

Fresh-Pak Chilled Foods Ltd teams up with University of Leicester to help establish a centre of excellence for food technology.

A leading British food manufacturer is harnessing the expertise of scientists at the University of Leicester to bring innovation and academic insight into its production process to help boost yields and quality.
Fresh-Pak Chilled Foods Ltd has established a strategic partnership with the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester which will include academic consultancy, student projects and a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) worth in the region of £200,000 across the project duration. 
The partnership includes the recruitment of an Analytical Chemist to the Fresh-Pak team, mentored by an academic and with access to the specialist expertise and facilities available at the University of Leicester, due to be appointed at the end of January.
The academic input from the University of Leicester will be led by Professor Andy Abbot and Dr Alex Goddard from the Department of Chemistry with support from Professor Jeremy Levesley from the Department of Mathematics. 
Based in South Yorkshire, Fresh-Pak is a leading supplier of food products to the major supermarkets, food service providers and business-to-business and is also the UK’s largest producer of boiled eggs (with over 5 million cooked every week).  Products made at the site include chilled sandwich fillers & accompaniments and the company's success is built on a 20-year history of specialist food manufacturing experience. 
One of Fresh-Pak’s strategic priorities for the next five years and beyond is to develop innovative new production processes and ways of working in order to increase productivity and quality.  They sought the support of a university to help accelerate and grow a strong science base, focusing on the application of robust materials science and chemistry. 
The ultimate aim of the partnership is to firmly establish Fresh-Pak as a centre of excellence in food technology, building on its enviable quality credentials and placing science at the heart of everything the company does. The centre of excellence aims to revolutionise the way food is processed at Fresh-Pak, resulting in improved yields & quality performance. These changes will ensure that food manufacturing operations constantly drive towards best-in-class and are underpinned by robust, scientific methodologies.  
Operational efficiencies will also provide for a more sustainable and environmentally sound food production process, which minimises waste and supports practical application of the most effective recycling techniques.
Professor Andy Abbott said: “The benefit to the University of collaborating with Fresh-Pak will be in demonstrating the impact of excellent academic research on a market sector (food processing). In addition, the new knowledge and best practice gained as result of the collaboration will feed back into the University in terms of teaching, new research themes and publication.”
On launch of the partnership, Keith Foreman, Managing Director of Fresh-Pak said : “We are delighted to partner with the University of Leicester as innovation forms one of the major strategic elements of our company’s growth strategy.  
“We already have great relationships with our customers and provide category leadership in the areas in which we operate and we see this as a further way of strengthening our position. 
“In today’s highly competitive landscape we firmly believe that companies who innovate and constantly challenge all aspects of their operation will succeed and the creation of a new Centre of Excellence will be instrumental in this.”
The University’s academic team has extensive knowledge of material science and, in particular, the behaviour of biomaterials and in-depth knowledge of analytical techniques and of developing bespoke analytical solutions for novel systems. The team also has experience of process development, pilot scale testing and installation and testing of production scale processes. The Department of Mathematics is one of the most research-active in the UK and its research strengths lie within a number of areas, including: computational modelling, numerical analysis and data mining. This expertise will be applied to enable operational improvements.  

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