The project, valued at £5.1 million, has been co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the University of Chester.
NoWFOOD provides a centre of excellence for food science and technology for producers across the region. As well as encouraging and nurturing small and medium sized food businesses, NoWFOOD helps to support the economic growth of the region by providing the facilities and expertise enabling food and drink manufacturers to explore new markets and develop new product ideas with the aim of generating more employment opportunities within the sector.
This is the first single venue in the North West that offers a complete end-to-end product development and testing service to food producers in the region. The facility has the potential to add value to any food or drink producer by offering hands-on specialist technical support, test kitchens, incubation space for start-ups, sensory testing units, and ongoing business advice. This means that small producers can move away from their kitchens at home into serious, purpose-built facilities and larger food companies can access exciting new technologies and processes such as our sensory unit for obtaining consumer insights and opinions.
Within the NoWFood Centre building there are a number of spaces available to hire:
- Development kitchens
- Sensory analysis unit
- Incubator spaces for business start-ups
- Meeting rooms
- Exchange room
- Hot desk facilities
- Conference Room
- ERDF support packages available for SMEs
Thanks to ERDF funding, SME food producers can benefit from up to 12 hours of funded support to help them realise their aspirations. When the funded assistance time is completed, SMEs can continue their support through affordable packages which include:
- Biosensors and screening for allergens, contaminants, additives and pathogens
- Food chemistry and analysis, including ABV testing and authenticity testing
- Food rheology and structuring
- Food microbiology and shelf life evaluation
- Nutritional advice and product formulation
- Dietary analysis
- Evaluation of emerging technologies and novel food processing technologies
- Hands-on support from food development technicians
NoWFOOD offers hands-on support from experienced and skilled food development scientists and technologists. This ranges from general business advice through to detailed research and testing. Food Development Technologists can also visit client premises to advise on processes, equipment routes to market.
Incubation units for micro and small businesses
There is an enormous growth and interest in artisan food products across the region. Many will be using their own kitchens at home and selling through local farmers' markets, which can limit the opportunity to expand the business. NoWFOOD has several specialist incubation units, equipped with sinks, fridge/freezers and worktop space. This will allow producers to upscale their production and have easy access to test kitchens and other technical equipment.
A centre of excellence for food technology
The Centre has a professional production kitchen with the latest equipment to cater for a variety of food producers. Equipment includes: Rational steam ovens, Thermomix and Robot Coupe food processors, a blast chiller, Hobart blenders, a vegetable preparation machine, water baths, vacuum sealers, a filling machine, a packaging machine and a walk-in cold room. A food development kitchen is also available for hire. Equipment in this kitchen echoes the production kitchen but is more specialised. Both kitchens can be hired for short-term or long-term usage.
A Sensory Unit for consumer testing
One the most exciting aspects of the NoWFOOD Centre, is the sensory unit, which allows producers to gain insight into consumer feedback and opinion. This has 10 cubicles, including disabled access, and a separate technical preparation room that mimics a domestic kitchen. The Centre can design and implement analytical sensory tests including: difference tests; threshold tests; and descriptive sensory analysis. The facility is well suited to controlled sensory evaluation of food and beverages by trained and semi-trained panels.
Conference facilities, meeting rooms and hot desk space
Food producers can use the Centre for meetings, or new product launches. There is also a hot desk facility that can be booked when required and teleconferencing equipment is available.