The Origins of Vestey Foods Group
22nd September 2015
IFB Member Vestey Group is a fourth generation family-owned food and farming business. Today, Vestey Foods Group comprises seven food companies specialising in the sourcing, processing and distribution of chilled, ambient and frozen products in the meat, fish, seafood, dairy, fruit, vegetables, specialist meal, and convenience categories in 70 countries around the world.
We’ve been taking a look at the history of one of the parts of the Group, Vestey Foods Group...
The origins of Vestey Foods Group date back in the 1890’s, when William and Edmund Vestey established the Union Cold Storage Company. By developing cold stores across the UK and throughout Russia, the Baltics, and Western Europe, they were able to supply large quantities of quality affordable meat, poultry, eggs and fish to the growing UK population during the Industrial Revolution.
In the early 20th century, the business expanded into China, establishing a huge egg processing enterprise from six dedicated factories on the eastern seaboard. With their own fleet of Blue Star refrigerated vessels, they were able to supply the bakery trades in the UK, USA, Europe and South Africa for over fifty years.
In 1911, the brothers expanded their services into meat production, processing and distribution. They acquired pastoral land and meat works in Venezuela, Australia and Brazil, with additional meat works in New Zealand and Argentina, as well as market-stalls on the Smithfield Market and butcher shops throughout the UK, culminating in around 3,000 shops by 1923.
The Blue Star fleet grew to become one of the most iconic shipping lines in history, having been rebuilt twice in the years following the two World Wars before being sold in 1998.
At the end of the century, the vertically integrated model by which the food business had previously operated was broken up with farming, cold storage, and food import and distribution operating as standalone businesses.
The Vestey family’s extensive farming interests are concentrated in Brazil, where the Group manages cattle breeding and rearing programmes as well as sugar cane production for the ethanol and sugar industries. As a new farming venture, a 12,000 ha planting programme of eucalyptus trees is currently underway for the supply of eucalyptus wood to the iron ore industry in Brazil. The family also has two premium wine investments in Australia, at The Lane in the Adelaide Hills and Delatite in Victoria.
Recognising the growth of the global ‘direct-to-consumer’ market, in 2011 the Group invested in a premium quality meat mail-order business, Donald Russell, which operates autonomously from its headquarters in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire.