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15 March, 2006 - 10:17 By Staff Reporter

Milton Keynes food firm riding a £3.5m Mexican wave

The company behind the UK’s most popular Mexican and regional American food brand is set to open a £3.5 million tortilla factory in Milton Keynes, creating some 50 new jobs for the region.The company behind the UK’s most popular Mexican and regional American food brand is set to open a £3.5 million tortilla factory in Milton Keynes, creating some 50 new jobs for the region.

The new 100,000 sq ft facility, dubbed the Tortillera, will be operational at the end of March when it will become Discovery Food’s third factory, doubling the firm’s entire manufacturing capacity.

Built against the backdrop of a rapidly growing Mexican food market, it marks a major milestone for the High Wycombe business which in 17 years has grown from three employees to a household brand employing almost 350 staff across four UK sites.

Discovery believes that growth in the sector is set to continue. An independent 2005 report by global market information group, TNS, has predicted Mexican food will overtake Chinese in popularity by 2007, putting it second only to Indian in the ethnic sector.

James Beaton, the Discovery group’s founder, said: "Mexican food continues to increase dramatically in popularity. At the same time, the popularity of the sandwich wrap, which originates from California, is gaining enormously over the traditional English bread sandwich.

"Having pioneered the long-life tortilla market, introduced wraps to the UK, championed the popularity of Mexican dishes onto restaurant menus and helped make fajitas one of the nation’s favourite home cook ethnic dishes, we want to be sure we will meet our customers’ needs and keep on growing the market.

"The new factory investment provides us with much needed scope for further growth to match this demand."

The two existing facilities are run by Discovery’s sister firm, Sonara Foods, and are both located in Daventry, Northamptonshire.

Between them they produce 40 tonnes of tortilla chips and six million flour tortillas a week, enough tortillas to stretch from London to Mexico City and back four times each year.

Its wraps, tortillas, seasonings and sauces are stocked by all of the major UK supermarket chains, over 90 per cent of UK’s catering outlets and most major sandwich wrap manufacturers.

Exports also continue to grow. Discovery’s most recent accounts show an almost 50 per cent rise in income from exports and the company now ships its products to 14 countries worldwide.

Earlier this year Discovery announced that it was exporting to Sweden and Norway in a deal with Axfood – one of Scandinavia’s largest food retailers. The deal is worth £2m a year and will see the Discovery brand stocked in over 200 supermarkets.

Discovery’s turnover for the year ended October 2004 was up 12.5 per cent to £32.1m (2003: £28.5m) on the previous year: 9.03 per cent of this came from overseas compared to 6.09 per cent in 2003.

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