Kismet Kebabs, one of the UK’s biggest kebab manufacturers, has netted more than £370,000 in government tax breaks after developing lactose-free doners.
The Essex-based business was driven to innovate and remove milk from its doner kebabs and chicken shawarma after becoming aware that a large number of customers with this food intolerance weren’t being well-served by the industry.
It was one of a host of innovative projects undertaken by Kismet Kebabs that qualified for £372,422 in R&D tax relief — a government tax incentive introduced in 2000 to reward innovation.
Milk has traditionally been used in the making of kebabs as a binding, flavouring and texturising agent, as well as a colourant. There was no product available that substituted lactose so Kismet’s food technologists set about developing new recipes that would open up new markets for itself and its customers. They first had to contact every supplier of every ingredient they used to find out whether they contained lactose, and then begin to experiment with alternatives which too often produced a product that lacked flavour and texture.
Other early issues encountered by production & NPD manager Eduarto Latiffi and his team included new recipes sticking to parts of the machinery, becoming too dry or disintegrating.
It wasn’t just ingredients and recipes that needed changing. Knock-on effects included adapting the machinery and software used in the production process.
Final trials involving a particular type of soya that could compensate for the lack of milk eventually proved successful.
The 30-year-old business produces more than 200 tonnes of kebab meat a week from its large, purpose-built factory in Latchingdon, near Chelmsford.
Another R&D project involved altering recipes to eliminate phosphates, another ingredient widely used in the food industry as a binding agent.
Kismet Kebabs was alerted to the fact tax relief was available on R&D investments by working with innovation funding specialist Catax.
Amird Devadasan, CEO of Kismet Kebabs, comments: “We missed out on significant sums in the past because we just had no idea R&D tax relief existed. Second to that, we didn’t really understand quite how much R&D we were implementing.
“Receiving this kind of government recognition and support is transforming the company because the sums involved are so significant. All of it is returned to develop the business further.
“Product innovation is no longer something we do occasionally when customers show interest in products we don’t have. In a world where every other person has a dietary need of some kind, we’re trying to predict how the industry will have to adapt in the future and get ahead of these changes to maintain our competitive advantage. Currently we have commissioned the first like-for-like protein based vegan doner kebab, which is our next venture on claiming R&D funds.”
Sarah Hinchley, key account manager at Catax, adds: “Amird and his team have taken this British Friday night favourite and hauled it into the 21st century, where food intolerances create endless challenges for manufacturers.
“Kismet’s innovations are helping to make the company an international success story, exporting to Spain, Cyprus, Scandinavia and around the world. This wouldn’t be possible were they not producing the kinds of recipes that are capable of opening up new markets and satisfying changing consumer trends. They weren’t sure they’d qualify for R&D tax relief and were shocked to learn how much qualifying work they were actually doing, and that’s something we encounter all the time.”