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UK’s largest food and drinks manufacturer named

A little-known tycoon has toppled Associated British Foods to become the UK’s largest food and drinks manufacturer.

Ranjit Boparan, the so-called “chicken king”, has unseated ABF after buying rival businesses that have helped to quadruple the turnover of his 2Sisters Food Group.

OC&C Strategy Consultants and The Grocer, which compile the Food and Drink 150 rankings, said that Boparan Holdings, 2Sisters’ parent company, had shot to the top after buying businesses including Goodfella’s Pizza, Fox’s Biscuits and Matthew Walker Christmas Puddings.

It had surged from twentieth place in 2010 to No 1 today, with revenues jumping from £838 million to £3.36 billion.

Much of the business involves own-label products, particularly chicken and pork. Last year the company increased the size of its protein business by 30 per cent. The company is a large supplier to Tesco, KFC and Marks & Spencer.

Mr Boparan, who started his career in a butcher’s shop after leaving school at 16 with few qualifications, is said to have made a million, lost it and restored it again. Alongside his food manufacturing businesses, he also owns the Harry Ramsden and Fishworks chains of restaurants.

Mr Boparan acquired his nickname during the battle to acquire Northern Foods in 2011. He gatecrashed a proposed Greencore deal with a £341 million bid, won the day and has continued to expand through acquisition ever since.

OC&C said that Boparan’s rise had helped to push ABF out of the top spot, after the latter was hit by an under-performing bread business and falling sugar prices. It said, however, that ABF, which makes Twinings Tea and Silver Spoon sugar, had increased its profitability through aggressive cost-cutting.

Will Hayllar, a partner at OC&C, which has compiled the index for nearly three decades, said that Boparan’s “stellar performance enabled the company to buck the trend of an otherwise depressed sector, where intense competition among the grocers has had a knock-on effect on producers’ revenues”.

The average rate of revenue growth among the 150 food and drinks makers in the index has slumped from 5.8 per cent last year to 2.9 per cent this year.

A spokesman for Boparan said: “We have spent two decades building a leadership position in the UK poultry industry, supplying around a third of all the chicken eaten, and our chilled, branded and red meat businesses are also seeing good progress.”

Source: www.thetimes.co.uk - 19 September 2016