British confectionery company Sweetdreams is set to boost operations, create jobs and break into new markets after securing a funding grant of £92,000 from the North of Tyne Combined Authority.
The funding is expected to enable the Northumberland-based company to expand the business by creating new jobs in the business, as well as expanding its manufacturing footprint. This comes as the company has invested heavily in additional chocolate packaging and processing lines.
Since its beginning in 1998 by husband and wife team Matthew and Cath Stephenson, the business has steadily grown to increase its presence across the UK, as well as its exports to European markets.
The company’s new funding comes from the North Tyne Growth Fund, spun off from the North of Tyne Combined Authority, led by Metro Mayor Jamie Driscoll, and the European Regional Development Fund. This allows the company to hire new employees and ensure the delivery of its expanded production capacities, including lines dedicated to vegan and plant-based offerings.
Matthew Stephenson said: “This is the first time we’ve had support. Our range of chocolate bars would not have been possible without NTCA’s investment. We have something exciting here, and the new funding has taken the pressure off. I have some very good people here and I’m proud to be in Northumberland.
“In addition to our ability to offer chocolate-covered confections, we now have a state-of-the-art drop-off line capable of producing plain bars, bars with inclusions and even plant-based vegan options”, explained the Managing Director.
During a recent visit, the mayor-elect saw the chocolate production process in full effect, meeting workers at the company’s offices and at the factory – including some of the new employees funded by the NTCA award.
Among those hired into the company is Darren Andrews, who has joined the company in a brand-new role. A former auto mechanic, he is now trained in the production and maintenance of high-speed, high-quality production lines. At the end of his training, he will be an expert chocolatier, who will then be able to pass on his knowledge to other new recruits.
Speaking about his career change, Andrews said: “Having many years of experience as a mechanic, this opportunity allows me to apply my existing skills to the engineering department, while giving me insight into a skill exciting and quite rare, to be a chocolatier. Sweet Dreams has big plans – and it’s great that I’m a part of it, from the very beginning”
Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “No one wants to see local businesses evicted from our main streets and business parks. That’s why we created the North of Tyne Growth Fund. We want to help local small and medium-sized businesses to grow, to create jobs, to give money back to our region. It’s been great to see how Sweetdreams are thriving with the support of North of Tyne funding. I can’t wait to see what happens next for them.”
Being a small family business in a space dominated by global brands has helped the Stephensons carve out the niche for Sweetdreams, working with everyone from large High Street retailers to smaller, more creative and innovative independent brands.
With “White Label” products – made for other companies – accounting for around 40% of Sweet Dreams releases, their size means they can take on smaller, more creative tasks that big companies would turn down: “If someone wants to put unicorns on 5,000 bars, we have that capability,” added its managing director.
Stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and developments in our magazine.