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Norfolk Business Awards 2018

East Anglia’s manufacturing sector is ‘highly productive’ compared to other regions

The production line at Pasta Foods's factory in Norwich. Picutre: Sonya Duncan

The production line at Pasta Foods's factory in Norwich. Picutre: Sonya Duncan

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

The East of England’s manufacturing industry is “highly productive” compared to the UK average, a new report claims.

According to trade body EEF there are now 14,040 manufacturing companies in the region, up 2% from last year, while in 2017 there were almost a quarter of a million people employed in the sector, an increase of 4.3% since 2010.

EEF, which published the regional manufacturing outlook report with business advisory group BDO, said the East of England’s output and order 
book have continued to “grow solidly” over the past year, supported by a “robust” export order pipeline.

The region now accounts for 9.3% of UK exports in the sector, with 60.2% of those going to Europe, EEF and BDO said.

Charlotte Horobin, East of England region director for EEF, said the report demonstrated the industry’s “increasingly vital role” in the region.

She said an “easing back” in the industry in the first half of this year was not a cause for concern after the “lofty heights” it reached in the second half of 2017.

“There are well-documented challenges going forward, not least those facing the automotive and construction supply chains,” she said.

“Despite this, those companies that invest and innovate 
will still have the best long term prospects and can contribute to raising the productivity performance of the region and the UK as a whole.”

Keith Ferguson, partner at BDO in the East of England, added: “Manufacturing is a real powerhouse sector for our regional economy, creating jobs and opportunities in both domestic and international markets.”

The New Anglia Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (NAAME) group is a vociferous advocate for the sector in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The organisation will be holding a productivity conference later this year, looking at 
the part that digitisation, automation and better people engagement can play in tackling the challenge.

NAAME chairman Jamie Thums said: “Our diverse regional manufacturing base is increasingly challenging the norm. It recognises the challenges facing it, notably in terms of ongoing Brexit uncertainties.”

Manufacturing accounts for 11.6% of the East of England economy and for 8.3% of national manufacturing output – making it the third most active region in the sector in the UK.

Domestic and export growth

Pasta Foods has seen recent success in both domestic sales and exports – powered by investment.

The Great Yarmouth-based company, which opened an £8m second factory on the edge of Norwich last year, saw “significant” revenue growth of more than £3.5m in its last financial year, with turnover totalling £28m.

The producer of dried pasta and snack pots sends around 60% of its products abroad.

Sales director Michele Conway said: “There has been big investment by the company and it continues. We see a clear opportunity for growth in all our markets and clear demand for our products.”

Ms Conway said the company, which employs more than 140 people, had recently branched out into the wholesale market and was also investing in its new product development process to “maximise the opportunities”.

“Snacking is such an innovative market so we have to be investing,” she said.

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