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Growing in the food safety industry

Ensuring food safety for supermarket shoppers
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Ensuring food safety for supermarket shoppers
Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications for Capital Space by Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications for Capital Space
Owner/Director - Sharp Minds Communications Ltd

Checking for contaminants in our food may barely cross our minds when tucking into products bought from supermarkets – we have companies like Metroweigh to thank for that.  And for food manufacturers, any contaminants in their food chain could threaten lives and do untold damage to their brands – again, Metroweigh helps protect them by flagging up any problems before they reach the consumer. Metroweigh managing Director Nick Watts explains the intricacies of his company’s role and outlines his ambitions to grow the business.

Metroweigh’s mission

Based in our Loughton Seedbed Business Centre, Metroweigh supplies weighing equipment for food manufacturing industries so that they can check that their products are the weight as stated on the packet. Additionally, the company commissions and calibrates x-ray machines that can detect contaminants such as glass, stone or metal within the food chain. This ensures that food is safe to eat – and safe to sell. The company manufactures smaller weighing machines itself, and commissions larger appliances from Germany, then supplying them to its customers. Metroweigh’s service is vital in protecting the food chain, and its clients include big supermarket chains such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco and M&S.

The process

“Most people are unaware of just how rigorously their food is checked for contaminants,” says Metroweigh’s Managing Director, Nick Watts, “Way back, M&S led the way with checking their products and other supermarkets followed. These days it’s absolutely essential – the consumer, and the law, demands it.”

Nick says that the introduction of x-ray machines within the food manufacturing process to detect anything that’s denser than the food itself, such as glass or stones, is a relatively new innovation. The machines are used at the end of the production line, with check weighing also supplied by Metroweigh.

“It’s all done manually,” says Nick, “The foodstuff - rice or chicken or whatever, passes along the line to the sealing machine via our weight-checker, metal detector and x-ray machine. It has to be the correct weight and it has to be free from contaminants. If it isn’t, the machine will reject it.” That way, nothing ends up sealed that shouldn’t go out to the consumer – and, with such a thorough process, it’s no wonder Metroweigh is used by for many manufacturers.

The Capital Space effect

Nick believes Capital Space has been a big help in helping his business achieve success. “Originally we moved here because it’s easy, its next to the station on the central line, the M11 is easy to get to and most of the staff are from close to London so we come against the traffic – it’s a really great location, “ he enthuses. Moreover, Capital Space was able to accommodate his business needs as and when they changed. First moving to Loughton Seedbed Centre in 2011, Nick initially rented one small unit and then added a second as the company grew, using one as a workshop and warehouse and the other an office. Deciding that it would be more efficient to move everything into just one unit, Nick made another move. “The transition was difficult, simply because we needed to get everything efficiently set up, but it’s good we’re all together now.

Capital Space has been great for Metroweigh’s fluctuations in growth, and Nick has goals for renting another unit in the future, as plans for a showroom are emerging.

Working as a team

Nick makes a habit of setting the team sales and business-growth targets. With a need for a rich variety of experience if the business is to achieve its KPIs, he looked to industries beyond food when looking for employees. “I have a staff member who previously worked for the NHS, organising rotas for surgeons in three different hospitals. He now uses those organisational skills to control our engineers’ diaries, making sure they’re at the right places on time. As we grow, we’re becoming more structured, so we can offer an even more efficient service improve going forward.”

Goals for the next decade

In the future, Nick is eager to grow the business. After building a good reputation in the industry, employing more sales staff has propelled his ambition to see the company the leader in its field. And when it comes to growing the business in London, Loughton Seedbed Centre has a geographical advantage: “We’re close to the capital, so sending engineers there is not a problem for Metroweigh, allowing us to tap into the market there.”

Working in the vital world of food safety undoubtedly comes with its pressures. However, Nick Watts’ success in establishing Metroweigh as necessity for food manufacturers in protecting their consumers has propelled his business upward.

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