Sheffield Alchemists strike gold with new factory

From left: Tony McLoughlin,  Liz Whetton, Imran Afzal, Emma Killilea and Charlotte Sprague.
From left: Tony McLoughlin, Liz Whetton, Imran Afzal, Emma Killilea and Charlotte Sprague.
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A Sheffield food company built on paranoia and delicious ingredients has opened a new factory and created 14 jobs.

Delicious Alchemy’s new site on Atlas Way, Brightside, has so little gluten - a protein found in wheat - on the premises “it’s basically nuclear,” according to boss Emma Killilea, an extreme coeliac.

Less than 20 parts per million is the ‘gluten free’ standard but most of her products have “non detectable” levels, she says.

“Every single ingredient is tested despite certificates and the final product is tested several ways. Machines are swabbed continuously. The number of provisions that go into the place…”

Emma’s demands reflect those of her customers who risk being hospitalised by extreme reactions to gluten.

The new factory means 90 per cent of production of the firm’s 16 products is now in-house, allowing total oversight.

And it is the culmination of nine years’ hard work by Emma, who is regularly affected by ill health.

She added: “I’m definitely glad not to be working as hard. Nine years, I don’t know how I did it.”

Last year, Delicious Alchemy was approved for a grant of £62,500 from Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.

The money, from a local version of the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, comes with targets for job creation - which the firm has smashed. Emma says.

It has created 14 jobs taking the head count to 25 and grew 40 per cent last year.

It also has a head office and food labs in Canada House on Commercial Street in Sheffield city centre.

But while the money was only paid out two weeks ago, the approval was enough to persuade a bank to lend.

In total, the company has invested £425,000 on expansion including £350,000 on the new factory. Costs of £75,000 were racked up paying for production on two sites as the firm made the transition from a co-packer in Manchester.

Emma added: “In some ways the grant was a drop in the ocean but it’s funny how it became a lever, the bank was happy to lend on the promise of it.

“We went for a grant because we wanted to open our own factory, we were growing too fast for our co-packer. It would have taken a lot longer without it, now 90 per cent of production is in-house. It feels good - but we have a factory to fill.”

And after nine years living in a two-up-two-down house in Arbourthorne, Emma has bought in Crookes.

She said: “I started up just as the banks stopped lending and I was unable to get a mortgage. I was boot strapping the company. Now, although I miss my neighbours I have a house with a great view across Sheffield.”

She set up Delicious Alchemy after a walk through a wheat field triggered itchy swellings. After giving up wheat her health improved.

A lack of products in 2003 and dissatisfaction with her games industry career were the trigger.