Vegware goes for growth in Australia

Vegware founder Joe Frankel expects turnover to hit �6.5m in the current financial year. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Vegware founder Joe Frankel expects turnover to hit �6.5m in the current financial year. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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VEGWARE, the maker of biodegradable forks that can be turned into compost, is expanding into Australia after being named today as one of 13 Scottish winners of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.

The company – which already operates in central Europe, South Africa and the United States – is opening a base in Sydney, having trebled the size of its head office in Edinburgh to support its international expansion.

Founder and managing director Joe Frankel said: “What is fantastic about Australia for us is that some of the big players in those countries are also big names here, so we hope that will transfer over quickly.”

Frankel revealed that sales rose by 61 per cent in the year to 31 January to £4.2 million.He expects that turnover will hit at least £6.5m during its current financial year after the company secured a series of major contracts.

“The £6.5m figure is really UK sales, and the US is doing about half as much again,” Frankel said.

Vegware develops and manufactures compostable catering disposables ranging from plastic cutlery and serving platters to coffee cups and takeaway boxes.

The Queen’s Award recognises Vegware’s contribution to sustainable development through cutting back waste in the food-service industry.

The company’s larger Edinburgh office is due to be ­officially opened next month by environment secretary ­Richard Lochhead.

News of the prize comes just days after Vegware won a £10,000 prize from the Federation of Small Businesses.

Frankel said legislation due to come into force at the beginning of next year should give Vegware a further boost. The new rules require the recycling of food along with glass, paper, plastic and metal by all Scottish businesses.

Others eyeing up continued growth include software group HotDocs, one of ten Scottish firms to secure a Queen’s Award for International Trade.

Russell Shepherd, who formed the current business after a 2009 buyout from LexisNexis, said Edinburgh-based HotDocs plans to treble turnover in the coming three years by boosting sales in Europe, the Far East and the US.

The firm generates more than two-thirds of its turnover from outside the UK, with most of that currently coming from North America.

HotDoc’s software automatically generates complex documents that can be accurately put together with minimal ­legal review. This speeds up the process of a bank manager issuing a loan, for example, or the automatic tendering of government contracts.

“The recession, if anything, has helped our business, ­because people are really ­focused on efficiency now,” Shepherd said.

HotDocs, which counts the US Justice Department among its clients, opened its newest office in New York last week. Shepherd said he hoped to establish a fixed presence in the Asia-Pacific region in the next year.

The sole Scottish winner in the enterprise category of this year’s Queen’s Awards is Zenith Oilfield Technology, which makes automated surveillance systems for the offshore industry.

Bought over last year by Texas-based Lufkin Industries in an £81m deal, Zenith’s Z-Sight system is designed to improve efficiency and production of wells which require downhole pumping systems to bring oil to the surface. The Inverurie-based company has invested more than £1.2m in the system.

Drinks companies are also toasting success, with whisky company Gordon & MacPhail and beer outfit Innis & Gunn each receiving awards for their international trade.

Gordon & MacPhail managing director Michael Urquhart believes that winning a Queen’s Award in 2009 has contributed to his firm’s growth, with exports almost doubling in the past three years to more than £6m.

Queen’s Awards: All the winners

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

• Alfred Cheyne Engineering (Turriff)

Makes winches for the oil, gas and renewable energy industries

• HotDocs (Edinburgh)

Document software maker

• HRH (Aberdeen)

Provides operational geology technology and services

• Keltic Seafare (Dingwall)

Shellfish supplier

• KP Technology (Wick)

Designs and makes equipment for materials and nanotechnology engineering

• ModuSpec Engineering (Aberdeen)

Oil drilling rig consultancy firm

• Petroleum Experts (Edinburgh)

Designs software used to model and manage oil and gas fields

• Sarkar Defence (Glasgow)

Maker of body armour, bulletproof vests and helmets

• Gordon & MacPhail (Elgin)

Whisky bottler and retailer, and owner of the Benromach distillery

• Innis & Gunn (Edinburgh)

Creator of oak-aged beers

INNOVATION

• Zenith Oilfield Technology (Inverurie)

Well-monitoring equipment maker

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

• Scottish Seabird Centre (North Berwick)

Tourist attraction

• Vegware (Edinburgh)

Maker of eco-friendly tableware