County HQ for £500m food group

Just a few weeks into 2013 and one of the largest food groups in the UK was acquired by an MBO team backed by Endless LLP, the private equity investor headquartered in Leeds. The end result of this is the relocation of the group’s head office to Malton, near York, bringing the control of more than £500 million of turnover to the Yorkshire region. With Endless being the largest UK private equity house headquartered outside of London, this is a truly “made in Yorkshire” transaction for a group renowned for its commitment to British pork produce.

When Vion NV, a large Dutch conglomerate, announced its intention to sell its UK food businesses in late 2012, the future for the pork meat production group looked uncertain.  The reputation of Endless in quickly delivering complex transactions and its speciality in acquiring non-core businesses from large corporates convinced Vion to support the offer backed by Endless.  Just a few weeks later contracts had been exchanged and the group was back in British ownership.

The future of more than 3,000 employees has now been secured and the transformation of the business from its Malton HQ has begun.  Renamed as Karro Food Group, the business has operations right across the UK, with nine divisions in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  Its reputation for high welfare pork produce was forged through its commitment to breeding its own pigs from its farm in Brydock, Scotland as well as sourcing from farmers local to its operations.  The majority of Karro's suppliers are British pig farmers and it is one of the big 3 pig meat suppliers into the UK food market.  With one of the other big 3, Cranswick plc, being headquartered in Hull, the UK pork supply chain is now largely managed out of Yorkshire & Humberside.

So what for the future of Yorkshire’s newest food group?  Incoming Chairman, David Manning, sees the future as being bright.  “This is a well invested group that operates right at the top of food standard expectations.  The board is excited to have the opportunity to refocus the business on added-value product areas and help drive growth in our pork produce with more attention on innovation, customer service and brands. Our absolute commitment to British pork and our farmers is unwavering and we expect this will be increasingly important to our customers in the future.”   Following the acquisition, Karro is already investing in its UK facilities and is developing plans to strongly grow its position in Fresh Pork, Bacon & Gammon, Cooked Meats and Sausages in the Retail, Foodservice and Food Manufacturing sectors.

In the face of continued economic gloom across the UK and Europe, the beginning of the story for Karro Food Group has brought good news for its employees, its supply chain and for the region.  Endless has committed significant funds to support the management team’s development plans for the business and bring a new name to the UK food market.  Previous investments by Endless include Crown Paints, Davy Markham (Yorkshire-based engineering group) and the South-Yorkshire headquartered Vasanta Group.

What’s in a name, for Karro Food Group? 

The classics scholars will have spotted that Karro is derived from the latin for meat (‘caro’). However, for the management team, employees and investors it is a short, sharp and clear sounding name reflective of the company’s desire to be a high quality British pork producer with the customer as the absolute focus.  

The new ownership also brought welcome news for British farming, with Karro emphasising its on-going commitment and partnerships with its British farming suppliers.  Karro is also fully committed to the development of its own integrated farming operation from its Brydock base in North East Scotland.

Karro will also be reinvigorating its reputable brands and is looking to further develop these as high quality and tasty food products using their market strengths as regional offerings, such as ‘Cookstown sausages’ and ‘McGees’, well known heritage lines including ‘Case & Sons’ and family favourites like ‘Malton Bacon Factory’ and ‘Key Country Foods’.  Many will instantly recall the famous Cookstown sausages adverts with footballers George Best and Pat Jennings from the 1960’s and 1970’s.