UK’s Firetree chocolate supported by EU-backed MEIF loan to develop new ranges
Premium UK chocolate brand Firetree has gained an EU-supported £250,000 MEIF (Midlands Engine Investment Fund) loan to help meet increasing domestic and export demand for its series, reports Neill Barston.
The company gained finance from The FSE Group Debt Finance Fund, which i backed by the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), to support firms impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
Significantly, the business has just unveiled its latest series, Create with Firetree range, in the form of 2 kg resealable pouches, designed for professional chefs, pâtissiers and chocolate makers, as well as for home cooks seeking fine ingredients.
Its latest finance has been supported by the MEIF scheme, which is financially underpinned by the EU as part of the European Regional Development fund. This continued to apply to the UK until the end of 2020 with the end of the Brexit transition period, enabling the completion of its application.
Since establishing itself in 2016, Firetree Chocolate aims to become the top UK luxury brand of premium craft chocolate. The company manufactures, from bean to bar, rich volcanic chocolate and focuses on sourcing and sustainability.
The company sources cocoa beans direct from farmers in the remote volcanic islands of the South Pacific and Madagascar, where the volcanic minerals produce a unique bean and taste. The beans are imported to the UK and crafted into chocolate by expert chocolatiers at its factory, before being wrapped in packaging depicting the volcanoes from where the beans were sourced.
Firetree Chocolate’s products are all dairy free and suitable for Vegans, Halal, Kosher and those with lactose intolerance. David Zulman, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Firetree Chocolate, said: “Although Firetree, along with other businesses, has been operating differently during the pandemic, we have adjusted well to the new normal and are encouraged to see demand for our product increasing.
“We take immense pride in what we do, working closely and directly with our farmers and creating single estate super-premium quality chocolate to delight our consumers. I would like to thank Paul at The FSE Group for helping us through the funding process which will assist in supporting the day-to-day sales, distribution and operations process whilst we plan ahead for an exciting future.”
Speaking on its latest launch, he added that there had been a notable trend for people using its chocolate in their confectionery and bakery creations that it had driven demand for its latest series.
Paul Lynam, Fund Manager, at The FSE Group, which manages the MEIF Debt Finance Fund which have supported Firetree, said: “We are proud to have supported Firetree throughout this process. The loan will support David and the team in their ambitions to continue to develop the brand and increase sales into 2021 and beyond. The FSE Group is committed to providing finance for innovative Midlands-based businesses and we wish them well for the future.”
Lewis Stringer, Senior Manager at the British Business Bank added that the latest funding package for Firetree Chocolate will play a key role in the business improving its operations, and encouraged other regional businesses to come forward if requiring assistance.
The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS). Deadline for CBILS applications has been extended to 31st March for UK businesses.