WJFG targets foodservice with ingredients firm takeover

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Shake on it: WJFG chief executive Norman Soutar (left) with Wellocks managing director James Wellock
Shake on it: WJFG chief executive Norman Soutar (left) with Wellocks managing director James Wellock
A Lancashire ingredients firm that supplies Michelin restaurants and high-profile sporting venues has been acquired by William Jackson Food Group (WJFG).

The deal to purchase Wellocks marks WJFG’s first foray into the premium end of the foodservice market, which the company had been looking to enter.

Wellocks, which employs 470 people, is a second-generation family business based in Nelson. It lists delicatessen-style meats and cheeses among its product portfolio, along with vegetables, condiments, yogurts and bakery items.

WJFG chief executive Norman Soutar said Wellocks was an “important acquisition”​ that would replace the MyFresh Wigan salad processing business the company sold to Florette owner Agrial in 2017.

Earlier this month, WJFG also offloaded frozen food brand Aunt Bessie’s to Birds Eye owner Nomad Foods for £210m.

Organic business Abel & Cole

In addition to the remaining MyFresh business, the Hull-based business owns online organic grocery delivery business Abel & Cole, bakery Jacksons and The Food Doctor.

Soutar said: “We are a sixth-generation family business and are delighted to be welcoming Wellocks, a business we have admired for many years, to the family.

“We’ve been looking to enter the fast-growing premium segment of the foodservice channel and believe Wellocks, which has itself enjoyed recent growth, has really exciting potential for the future, with its great customers and really innovative suppliers.”

Wellocks managing director James Wellock, whose father set up the business in 1961, said he would continue to run the company with wife Jo and finance director Michael Beech.

‘Business as usual’

He said: “In terms of the day-to-day running of the business, it’s very much business as usual and nothing is changing.

“The difference is that we now have a business behind us that has even more knowledge and experience of the food industry and is able to invest in the long-term future of Wellocks and everyone who works here.”

Meanwhile, the £210m takeover of Aunt Bessie’s by Nomad Foods earlier this month represented “a very good deal” for WJFG, an industry insider told Food Manufacture​ earlier this month.

WJFG will remain owner of Aunt Bessie’s until the deal’s expected completion in the autumn.

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