A MEAT-FREE burger and sausage maker plans to recruit more than 100 workers to fuel an ongoing expansion supported by the Netflix generation’s desire for change.

Quorn Foods says a new manufacturing hub, expected to open in late summer, will help meet rising global demand.

And Kevin Brennan, chief executive, last night (Monday, February 5) told The Northern Echo its “relentless” drive to strengthen its market standing should include a number of workers from the former Walkers crisp plant in Peterlee, east Durham.

The company previously revealed a £150m long-term expansion plan aimed at bolstering production lines at its factory in Billingham, near Stockton, to create a “billiondollar business”.

Mr Brennan said work was progressing nicely on the Billingham site, confirming the expansion will be followed by investments to open research and development centres to oversee global innovation and production methods at Stokesley and Billingham, respectively.

He said: “We are continuing a journey to create jobs and expand our team.

“Last year, we took on over 200 people and this year it will be 100-plus.

“It’s almost relentless and we are hoping to strengthen the team with people from the Walkers plant who have relevant skills.

“We had a huge amount of applications from the teams at Walkers and I’m sure a big part of the factory will be run by people from Walkers.”

Mr Brennan was speaking yesterday after revealing the business, which runs its head office out of Stokesley, North Yorkshire, enjoyed total annual sales of £205m and global growth of 16 per cent in 2017, which helped deliver its strongest ever year.

Across Europe, the growth figure was 27 per cent, while in Australia and the US, where vegan products and chicken-style nuggets are proving extremely popular, respectively, the number stood at 35 per cent.

Mr Brennan said the business has been helped by a change in customers’ attitude towards eating meat, with TV programmes on Netflix, such as Cowspiracy and Rotten, which look at factory farming, a rising factor.

He also said Quorn’s increasing international presence will help it overcome any Brexit trade issues, though he moved to assuage fears Europe could become a no-go zone once Britain’s EU divorce is complete.

He added: “We are starting to see more younger consumers cut down on their meat consumption. It’s almost a generational thing and not one of those fads like the latest diet, and programmes on Netflix, like Cowspiracy and Rotten, have helped.

“There is a clear upturn in terms of the markets we operate in and we are very optimistic that there will be continued growth.

“Increasingly, Europe will be a modest, rather than core, amount of our growth and we have good resilience.

“We have got a very good base to grow from and we haven’t been successful because we are selling exports just to Germany or France.

However, we are still investing in European markets.”

Quorn’s main ingredient in its products is Mycoprotein, a dough created by fermenting fungus, which officials say is high in protein and fibre and low in saturated fat.