A New Venture takes Wing

The KTP between Kestrel Foods Ltd and a combined academic team from Queen’s University Belfast and the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) recruited David Jones as the KTP Associate.  The company created the Forest Feast snack food brand in 1996, and has been importing natural fruit and nut products from all over the world for mixing and packing.

As time went on, their customers asked more often for processed products like salted peanuts, roasted salted cashews, honey roast and glazed products so it made sense for Kestrel to see if there was viability in putting together their own roasting plant.

David saw the KTP Associate job in an online advert, and immediately felt that it was a good fit for him.  He says

Food KTPs are quite rare but my background has always been food, through the family firm, Welsh Lady Preserves, which makes jams and chutneys. My grandfather started showing me how the business worked when I was four and later my father relied on me to bring on new products every year. I went to the University of South Wales and got a biology degree which had a strong element of food science and technology but I already had knowledge about flavours so I’m bringing my life experience as well as my academic experience to this role.

David works closely with the production team and since he arrived at the end of 2014 he opened up their thinking about their capabilities. Kestrel has now moved from packing and mixing to processing and manufacturing and there is a lot more technical experience in the company.  David’s work brought new learning to the company and although they had invested in a roasting machine they soon realised that it was the other aspects, flavouring and coating and the science behind it that they needed to know about.

It’s been a steep learning curve for everyone, including David who has put new systems in place, developed new processes and trained company staff.  The next part of David’s journey will be to identify new opportunities such as chocolate and yoghurt coatings, and to look at new ways to use our equipment for example, brining, roasting and salting pistachios.  David says

I don’t have any experience of those things at the moment but I’m delighted that the company thinks I’m capable of doing it! As for the future, I really want to be involved in research and development. It’s really exciting to see new products go from a prototype to being on the shelves and I’d love to be a part of that.

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