A POLITICIAN enjoyed a slice of the action at a pizza business — before being grilled by staff at the firm.

Julie Hilling — MP for Bolton West — was given a tour of Stateside Foods, which produces chilled pizzas for major supermarkets.

The Westhoughton firm is one of the region’s big success stories and now employs more than 700 people and contributes to 38 per cent of the chilled pizza market in the UK.

Ms Hilling was shown the company’s state-of the-art bakery equipment which has just been installed.

She said: “It is really impressive to see such a successful and competitive business continuing to invest in their site here in Bolton West.

“The plans for the business going forward are really exciting and I hope they will help in providing more job opportunities for local people.

“The factory was very impressive, not only with the new machines and technology, but the fact more skilled workers are now needed to run and operate the technology which produces the pizzas we eat.”

Ms Hilling also hailed the “impressive” firm for its success and ambition. Following investment of about £90million from German parent company Suedzucker, Stateside has become one of Westhoughton’s largest employers.

Ms Hilling ended her visit by joining some staff for a question and answer session, discussing issues such as public transport, HS2 and jobs for school-leavers.

Managing director Jon Lucas joined the firm 20 years ago, when it employed just 20 people.

He said: “It is great that Julie knows that we are doing down here and employing more than 700 people.

“We are an example of a business that is investing into Bolton which I am sure is of huge interest to Julie.

“We are a rapidly growing business and have changed massively since I got involved.”

Stateside Foods said it was continuing to eye up further growth opportunities with more projects in the pipeline for the winter.

The firm is sponsoring the Business of the Year award at the Bolton and Bury Business Awards which will be held on September 11.