Suffolk now home to Europe’s largest rice cooker

Posted on 4 Dec 2022 by The Manufacturer

The UK’s leading producer of authentic Japanese sushi, ichiban, has invested in Europe’s largest rice cooker with the support of a seven-figure loan provided by Lloyds Bank.

Stowmarket-headquartered Ichiban has used the £1m funding package to purchase a state-of-the-art commercial rice cooker that will enable the business to cook the rice needed for its sushi more quickly, efficiently, and sustainably. The new kit can cook 300 kilograms of rice every hour and produces perfectly cooked rice that further improves the quality of the product.

ichiban produces more than 500,000 packs of own label and branded sushi each week for its customer base which comprises many of the UK’s leading retailers and supermarkets, including Tesco, Boots and Aldi. The business typically cooks around 900 tonnes of rice every year and expects this to increase to over 1000 tonnes each year following the recent investment.

Dr Dan Poulter MP views the new rice cooker at ichiban – (L-R) Dr Dan Poulter MP, Matt Hubbard, Michael Adams, Bob Baker

Dr Dan Poulter MP views the new rice cooker at ichiban – (L-R) Dr Dan Poulter MP, Matt Hubbard, Michael Adams, Bob Baker

Founded in 2005, the business has gone from strength-to-strength in recent years and now has an annual turnover of £32m. Lloyds has been actively supporting ichiban for over 7 years, led by Lloyds Bank’s relationship director Michael Adams.

ichiban, which means ‘number one’ in Japanese, employs more than 450 people at its site in Stowmarket. The firm’s manufacturing process, which only uses fish and seafood from approved sources, is completed entirely in Suffolk.

Andrew Wilkinson, Managing Director, ichiban, said: “We’ve enjoyed substantial growth in recent years as more and more people have discovered the appeal of eating sushi. But to maintain this trajectory, and increase our capacity for further expansion, we needed to invest in new larger scale and more efficient cooking equipment.

“The finance package we’ve received from Lloyds Bank has enabled us to do just that, and this investment will be transformational for our business.”

Matt Hubbard, Lloyds Banking Group’s East of England Ambassador, said: “We have some excellent food and agricultural businesses in Suffolk and ichiban is a great example of a successful local business that is expanding.

“I was delighted to see the new rice cooker being installed, and come back to see it now it’s up-and-running. ichiban has a strong reputation for quality and service that really resonates with its customers.

“We will remain by the side of ichiban in the future, as we will be by other Suffolk and UK based businesses that need our support.”

Michael Adams, the Lloyds Bank Relationship Director, works closely with the sushi firm.

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, who visited ichiban’s manufacturing facility in Stowmarket last week, added: “ichiban plays such an important role in our local economy, employing more than 450 people here in Suffolk, and it was really fascinating to see first-hand the intricate food manufacturing undertaken by the firm to produce its sushi.

“The business’ latest investment in this new equipment demonstrates a real commitment to a continued path of progression and I look forward to following its ongoing success in the future.”

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