AMBITIOUS plans are coming to fruition which will help a Blackburn pet food maker cement its places as one of the country’s leading independent producers.

Contractors are putting the finishing touches to a major new production and warehousing facility for Pets Choice, on Lower Phillips Road, Whitebirk.

And land has also been identified beyond their existing boundary which could see the driving force behind brands such as Webbox, Tastybone and Vitakraft, expand still further.

But for chief executive Tony Raeburn the key is to develop the business, which employs around 200 people, at just the right pace.

He told the Telegraph: “It is important to grow Pets Choice responsibly and profitably.

“We are fortunate in that we totally privately-owned and have no outside equity so there is not that pressure. We are able to invest everything we make back into the business.”

Last year this strategy saw turnover increase by 4.3 per cent to £46.6million, and there are hopes that can be significantly improved over the next four years.

Earlier in 2019 the company acquired Sheffield-based Rufus Foods, which makes dog and cats products for all ages, to expand its overall brand range to 10.

This followed some more esoteric diversions previously, which saw the Blackburn outfit make a move for ventures such as Spike’s, Wild Things and Feathers and Beaky.

Sales for hedgehog food producer Spike’s have borne out their approach - with a 106 per cent increase recorded year-on-year.

And Mr Raeburn has similar hopes for Wild Things, which provides nutrient-rich fare for everything from swans, to ducks, badgers, and foxes, as well as hedgehogs, and Feathers and Beaky, which has a host of chicken snacks and treats under its wings.

Pet lovers have also been spending heavily on more health-conscious treats for their furry friends in recent years.

Within just three years of entering the market, Webbox Natural, on the back of successful TV marketing spots, has grown sales to make it a £10million brand.

Their Tastybone line of nylon, rubber and edible chew toys also won a Queen’s Award for Export in 2017.

“Our success has come because we are offering quality products at value for money prices,” said Mr Raeburn, fresh from a judging stint at the Animal Heroes Awards in London, alongside the likes of former Ever Decreasing Circles actor Paul Egan.

“This is an exciting place to work and there is a real buzz about the place with everything that is going on.”

Other extra-curricular activities have allowed the group to increase its profile. Through Spike’s, a partnership with Amazing Grace, an animal rescue initiative backed by the Queen guitarist Brian May’s Save Me Trust, has been secured.

Working also with the Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, 10p from every bag of Spike’s food sold is donated to the cause.

Pets Choice has also linked up with the Street Vets charity, which supports homeless pet owners.

Work on the company’s British Retail Consortium accredited Whitebirk extension is expected to be completed next month, allowing a migration from their traditional home in Gladstone Street, in Daisyfield.

The extension project will allow Pets Choice to potentially enter into deals to supply own-brand products to a number of the country’s leading grocery retailers.

Mr Raeburn also has one eye on the ongoing Brexit crisis, as the company exports to more than 40 countries and imports a proportion of its wares.