A FAMILY-RUN manufacturing firm has officially started its long-awaited venture into the freezer industry, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Ebac, in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, is now making Norfrost chest freezers.

The move could create about 100 jobs, with bosses aiming to see at least 50,000 appliances roll off its production line every year.

The company, known for its dehumidifiers and water coolers, already has distribution deals in place with Argos and Euronics.

It is also just weeks away from becoming the UK’s only washing machine manufacturer, as it targets significant growth in the lucrative white goods market.

That project could also create up to 100 jobs, adding to Ebac’s existing 220-strong workforce.

The company salvaged the Norfrost brand last year, buying the collapsed Scotland-based Icetech Freezers.

The deal included the Norfrost name, its equipment, designs and copyright agreements.

However, work was delayed due to faults with foam-making equipment for the freezers.

The firm, run by managing director Pamela Petty, moved into pipe maker Radius Products’ former Aycliffe factory to accommodate the expansion, and its plans were also featured on BBC2 programme Digby Jones: The New Troubleshooter.

Mrs Petty said the firm had to diversify its market position to continue its growth.

She said: “The equipment that stopped the freezer job is now in place.

“The freezers are a better version of the old Norfrost products and we have tweaked things to improve them further.

“Norfrost was doing just over 100,000 when it collapsed, so we know the market is there.

“It was a shame that the company didn’t survive, but for us, this move was absolutely the right thing to do.”

The company launched its £7m washing machine programme with £1m support from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, and Mrs Petty has set another target of at least 50,000 appliances every year.

When Indesit returned production of its Hotpoint machines to its Italian roots more than seven years ago, it meant there wasn't a single British-based maker of the everyday kitchen appliance.

Mrs Petty said the void, and customers’ growing desire for UK-made goods, gave Ebac perfect incentive to make the venture a success.

She added: “We are working on the machines and doing various tests.

“We will look to use the UK-made side of it to get a foot in the marketplace, but we cannot rely on that alone.

“That will get us into the game, but five and ten years on, we want people to see this as a great piece of kit.”