Aunt Bessie Yorkshire pudding owner rises nicely to buy Abel & Cole

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

In the family way: the William Jackson Food Group 'likes the culture of family-run businesses'
In the family way: the William Jackson Food Group 'likes the culture of family-run businesses'

Related tags: Fruit, Food

William Jackson Food Group, owner of the Aunt Bessie Yorkshire pudding brand, has acquired the online organic food delivery business Abel & Cole for an undisclosed sum.

The privately-owned food manufacturer based in Hull has acquired the whole business, which will be run by its existing management.

Abel & Cole will join William Jackson’s four other food enterprises: the Hazeldene salads business, the fresh vegetable supplier Parripak, Jackson’s Bakery, the maker of Yorkshire’s Champion Bread and sandwich bread, and Aunt Bessie’s.

An informed source told FoodManufacture.co.uk: ​It’s an interesting move and a good cultural fit. William Jackson Group has always been very keen on family-owned businesses. A number of enterprises it has bought in the past – like Hazeldene and Parripak have been family-run businesses. So, I think they like the culture of family-owned businesses.”

Private equity ownership

The source added that Abel & Cole’s relationship with its previous owner, equity house Phoenix, had been a less than happy marriage. “I don’t think Abel & Cole was ever a business that should have been in private equity ownership.The culture clash was pretty stark.

​The whole ethos of a home-delivered fruit and veg business was never suited to private equity ownership. So they are likely to find an altogether happy home within the William Jackson Group.”

The acquisition of Abel & Cole complemented William Jackson's other vegetable business and brought together its experience in food manufacturing and retail, he added.

Strong values

Norman Soutar, chief executive of William Jackson, said: “We are a 160-year-old family business with strong values and are delighted to be welcoming Abel & Cole – a business we have admired for many years – to our family.

“Abel & Cole has some exciting plans for the future and, now they are part of the William Jackson Food Group, we can provide support to help them realise their ambitions.”

Keith Abel, founder and chairman of Abel & Cole, said: “This is great news for us. We’re excited about the future.

“With our new partners, we have the security and stability we need to grow and flourish. By joining a family business, which respects and understands us, we can carry on delivering the best veg boxes imaginable to our wonderful customers.”

Abel & Cole delivers groceries to 50,000 homes across the country every week. The business employs 450 staff and works with 150 farmers and food makers.

William Jackson Food Group employs almost 2,000 people at various UK sites.

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