A FOOD company is creating more than 300 jobs in a £30m expansion.
Quorn Foods is extending its factory in Billingham, near Stockton, to increase production by 50 per cent.
The firm is building a third fermenter at the plant, which employs about 30 people, to meet rising demand for its meat substitute range.
Bosses say the new roles will support 100 construction posts and operational roles needed to build and run the factory.
However, the firm says it expects to create another 300 jobs at the plant.
Kevin Brennan, Quorn Foods' chief executive, said it was committed to strengthening its North-East presence.
He said: “Once the third fermenter is operational and fully running, we expect to create more than 300 jobs here and at our suppliers and partners.
“A lot of them will be in North-East and we have already created 20 new roles this year, including apprenticeships and international commercial roles.
“While we are now well-established as a global brand, we’re proud to say the nucleus of our operations remains in Yorkshire and the North East.
“As people are re-thinking their meat eating habits and realising 500 meals a year with meat is too much for our health and the planet, demand for our products has soared.
“This is why we are now in a position where we need to expand production.
“Not only will this additional fermenter increase production by up to 50 per cent, but it will boost the local economy at a time when it is most needed.”
The move comes as Quorn, which employs about 600 workers at its headquarters in Stokesley, North Yorkshire, looks to capitalise on its fastest ever growth in 2013, when it attracted an extra 10.2 million consumers.
Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, hailed the move, saying it proves the region is an attractive area for companies to operate.
He added: “A £30m investment is tremendously good news for Teesside, and Billingham in particular.
“It is a vote of confidence in our local people.
“I'm looking forward to seeing the plant built and learning more about Quorn's plans to recruit and train their new workforce.”
Quorn's UK business reported a 13 per cent growth in total sales last year, and a 20 per cent increase in like-for-like sales in the final quarter of the year.
The company also exports to 13 countries, including Australia and the USA, where bosses it says sales in the first quarter of 2014 increased by 24 per cent and 42 per cent respectively.
WHAT IS QUORN?
- Its main ingredient is a plant protein that replicates the texture and taste of meat
- It was developed in the 1960s amid fears of a shortage in protein-rich foods
- Quorn as a retail product was first produced in 1985 by Marlow Foods
- The company uses double Olympic Games and double world champion runner Mo Farah to front its advertising campaign.