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Last Updated: Monday, 19 July, 2004, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
Nut-free guarantee
Around 4% of us have a nut allergy

An afternoon of baking nut free cakes and biscuits to help her daughter's allergy has led Angela Gourlay-Russell to the recipe for business success.

Angela's daughter, Kirsty is allergic to nuts.

In fact the allergy is so strong that even the trace of a nut product could kill her.

And it's that sensitivity that causes the problems.

Guarantee

Traditionally food manufacturers are reluctant to make products that are guaranteed nut-free because the tiniest amount can set off an allergic reaction in sufferers.

With many of their production lines switching from one product to another it's just not practical for them to be able to guarantee that their food is nut free.

And so Angela decided to set up a business doing just that.

Her company, It's Nut Free, does exactly what it says on the label.

Specialised market

The firm goes to extremes to make sure that the cakes and biscuits it produces are indeed free of nuts.

The plant, at Melmerby near Ripon, is a nut-free world.
Nut-free biscuits, flapjacks and cereals

Suppliers are rigorously checked and workers have to avoid eating nuts for 24 hours before a shift.

Even our production team had to forsake nut products for a day before being allowed to film there.

But around 4% of the population are reckoned to have an allergy to nuts and the precautions mean that Angela has that specialised market virtually to herself.

Potential

Now a business that began in her kitchen employs 10 people and turns out 1500 boxes of biscuits, flapjacks and cereals every week.

Customers include supermarkets like Asda and Morrisons as well as hotels and conference centres.

"I always knew that there was the potential for a business here," said Angela, who used to work as an accountant.

"But I've been amazed at just how quickly it's all taken off.

"And now that Morrisons has taken over Safeway, we're going to be supplying their stores too, so it's just become incredibly busy."
Angela is "incredibly busy."

Risks

Her daughter Kirsty, who is 14, is delighted too - for one thing it means she can buy foods that she knows are safe to eat.

"I'm really proud of what my mum has done."

But a business like this carries risks too.

Angela admits to the occasional sleepless night at the thought that just one trace of a nut slipping through the system could prove fatal for a customer.

"It's something you always worry about," she said.

"Although I'm much happier than I used to be.

"Our suppliers are all used to dealing with us and I am happy that their production systems are completely nut-free.

"And more important than that, I'm really happy with the people we have working for us.

"We have to choose them very carefully and I know I can trust them all."

Expansion

For Angela the business is also something of a mission.

"It's lovely for me to know that I'm helping out all those families and all those kids who need to know that the food won't set off a reaction.

"It means they can go into the supermarket and buy food for their children and know they'll be safe."

In fact her passion for the product goes further than that, as Kirsty revealed: "People often write in or send us pictures of their kids with the cakes and my mum sits and cries over them because she's so happy!"

Things are going so well that Angela is planning to expand.

By Christmas she hopes to have moved to a bigger site nearby to take on larger contracts.

She also has plans to make desserts and nut-free ready meals in the future.

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