Active Food Systems
Region: East of England
Location: Offord Cluny, Cambridgeshire
Programme: Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
Having grown significantly over several years, cooking technology manufacturer Active Food Systems saw its sales plummet as a result of COVID-19. Lacking the funding to continue on its upward trajectory, the company looked to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) for support.
Read what the business had to say in this CBILS case study.
British Business Bank: Can you tell us what your company does?
Andrew Edwards, finance director of Active Food Systems: We’re based in Cambridgeshire and we specialise in commercial cooking technologies, specifically our internationally patented commercial chargrill, the Synergy Grill.
The product is unique in that it doesn’t generate fat that the user has to dispose of after cooking. At present, more than 2,000 restaurants are using it.
The coronavirus has affected a huge number of businesses across the UK. What problems were you facing as a result of the outbreak and what made you apply for CBILS support?
We serve the food/hospitality sector, and before the pandemic our sales had grown for six successive years. During the first part of 2020, we were on track once again for record growth.
But once restaurants and other food premises closed, our sales went down by 90%. This came at a critical time — we had several business development projects in play which were designed to build on that growth we’d seen over the previous few years. We couldn’t complete any of these projects without funding.
How long did the application process take? Did you need any support?
We applied to NatWest for the loan and the whole process, from putting in the application to receiving the funds, took three weeks.
“Investment is vital to us, but the pandemic has stretched our investors’ resources considerably. The CBILS loan allows a small niche technology business that represents the very best of British design and engineering to continue to create wealth for all its stakeholders.”
Andrew Edwards, finance director of Active Food Systems
What advice would you give to other businesses that are applying for a CBILS loan?
It’s important to get your application right first time, so I’d strongly recommend working closely with the business relationship manager (BRM) at your bank.
Only they have access to the underlying underwriting committees that make the key investment decisions, so furnish your BRM with a comprehensive pack that brings together all the salient information needed to support your application for a loan.
How has the CBILS loan helped your business to weather the outbreak? And what might have happened if you hadn’t received it?
While our business already had strong support, the exceptional nature of the pandemic stretched our investors’ financial resources to the point that, without the loan through CBILS, we wouldn’t have been able to stimulate matched funding from our shareholders or complete the development projects we’d started.
We’d also be forced into stopping research and development, losing key young workers we’d trained and letting down established customers.
Instead, the CBILS loan allows us to expand vital business links, maintain exports and support training and employment for the longer term with confidence.