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How FEAST saved Frog Island from croaking

One of the county’s oldest microbreweries has been rescued from croaking thanks to a vital boost in funding, writes Anna Murby.

Frog Island Brewery, which began producing beer in Northampton in 1994, has received a £2k grant from FEAST (Food Enterprise Advisory Support Team) – a cash injection which owner Graeme Swanson says rescued it from certain closure: “I bought the business a year ago because, as an ale enthusiast, I really valued the heritage of this wonderful company and wanted to secure its future for the town” explained Graeme.

“But last summer, after a few expensive hiccoughs, I was about to lock the cellar door for the last time when I heard about the FEAST project, applied for the grant and was accepted and that enabled me to purchase the new equipment I needed to continue brewing.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that the funding and support I’ve received through FEAST has been life-saving, as this place would have sunk without it” he added.

FEAST, a project part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, is aimed at supporting eligible food and drink manufacturers across the SEMLEP area (covering Northamptonshire) through grants, technical support and business mentoring.

With funding available to SMEs for capital project spends between £2.5k and £80k, the £2k grant awarded to Frog Island has helped in the purchase of two fermentation tanks and a smaller brewing vessel, allowing not only the continued production of its heritage beers – Croak & Stagger, Natterjack, Shoemaker and Best – but also the opportunity for Graeme, who sees himself simply as having ‘stewardship’ of the brand, to add to the range.

With one new beer already in the pipeline, more to follow and plans to double his capacity, he’s looking forward to taking advantage of the next cycle of funding and is urging other food and drink businesses to follow suit: “Far from being complicated and time-consuming, the grant application process was really simple and I got the good news that I’d been successful within days, so I’d encourage everyone to ensure that they don’t miss out!” enthused Graeme.

FEAST, which is worth £7.1 million in total, and which will receive £3.5 million funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020, was secured by the Food & Drink Forum and is being led by The Mallows Company, with support from Moulton College, the University of Northampton and Central Bedfordshire Council.

The scheme has already seen more than £100k distributed in grants to some 22 companies across SEMLEP, while many more businesses have also received tailored mentoring and technical support, including expertise on changes to legislation and product shelf life.

For more details, including registering your business for the free project, please contact Amanda at The Mallows Company on 01933 664437 or email amanda@themallowscompany.com

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