Industry/sector: Food and drink
Date founded: 1886
The boss: Peter Utting
Location: East Midlands
Latest turnover: £261.8m
Three-year compound growth rate (%): 235.69
Latest EBITDA: £12.5m
Whitworths was launched more than a century ago in 1886, which is when founder John Battams Whitworth was granted planning permission to open a flour mill with his brothers Herbert and Newton, thus the trading name of the Whitworth Bros was born.
For the first 50 years, the firm delivered flour to bakeries in the local area using ponies that were housed at the mill. In 1932, however, things changed when the makers of Weetabix started to buy wheat from the brothers. The popularity of the partnership allowed Whitworths to begin using lorries to deliver to London, while mill manager Frank George joined the Weetabix board.
By 1935, the company started trading under Whitworth Holdings and further expansion was achieved by acquiring a similar Peterborough operation and, as packaged food started to grow in popularity, branded flours were entered onto the market.
The arrival of the 50s saw Whitworths acquiring bakeries to ensure an outlet for its flour, while it revamped some of the milling equipment to tap into the dried fruit market, which resulted in the birth of the speciality sugars and fruits sector.
Fast-forward to 1991 and the firm demonstrated its innovation yet again, this time with financials, turning around a loss of £2.5m in 1989 into a £2m profit the following year.
Throughout the 90s, further mergers and acquisitions took place and Whitworths’ remit was expanded further still with nuts added to its catalogue of foodstuffs.
Private equity business European Capital bought Whitworths in 2006 and from that point the business evolved with the times by changing branding and packaging to accommodate the modern consumers, even embracing healthy snacks with child-facing brand Frootz.
Today, declaring a commitment to “continue to work tirelessly at the forefront of sourcing and supplying great products to make your home-cooking successful and your snacks healthy and delicious” appears to have paid off as the firm’s latest turnover hit £262m.
Discussing its creativity and traditional roots, the company said: “Our culture as a family business means we naturally attract colleagues who share our values of strength and solidarity.
“However, the dynamic nature of Whitworth Bros Ltd. also means our people share common goals: to improve through innovation and provide our customers with world-class service.”