Northern Foods - History


The business was founded by Alec Horsley in 1937 as a family-run dairy business based in Holme on Spalding Moor. In 1942 the business was registered as Northern Dairies and became a public company in 1956. In 1962 Horsley persuaded Christopher Haskins, the future Chairman, to join the business as a condition of marrying his daughter. In 1972 the Company changed its name to Northern Foods as it diversified into general food production.

It bought Park Cake Bakeries and Oldham & Smiths Flour Mills in 1972. In 1974, Pork Farms and Northern Foods created joint venture company Porkdown Ltd, to supply meat products to French foods group Danone. But immediately after production started, Danone undertook a group wide-review, and on deciding to concentrate on their milk products line, closed down the contract. The resultant losses closed Porkdown, and in 1978 led to the agreed sale of Pork Farms to Northern Foods, after the controlling Samworth family agreed sale of their shares to the group. Then in 1977 it acquired Fox's Biscuits.

Acquisitions continued in the 1980s, under the leadership of Christopher Haskins who became Chairman in 1980, with Dorset Chilled Foods in 1981, Bowyers and Elkes Biscuits in 1985, Batchelors in 1986 and Evesham Foods in 1988. In 1987 the company built the most advanced food factory in Europe, the Fenlands Food Factory in Grantham, and dedicated it entirely to Marks & Spencer.

In the 1990s it acquired: Palethorpes in 1990; Park Cake Bakeries, Trafford Park Bakery, Kara Foods, Express Dairies and Eden Vale in 1991; Mathew Walker in 1992; Vanderheul in 1993; Green Isle Foods in 1995; Cavaghan & Grey and George Payne & Co. in 1998; and Pyewipe in 1999.

In 2000 it acquired a 40% stake in Solway Foods (later increased to 100%) and R&K Wise and in 2002 it bought Lacemont and Fox's Confectionery.

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