Food & Drink is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, measured by both economic output and employment. In total, the food system – from farmers and supermarket managers to catering staff – employs 1 in 8 of the UK workforce.*

The food sector in Essex provides over 86,300 jobs across 8,330 businesses, generating over £2.5 billion GVA**. The East of England’s food and drink sector is also reaching new records with exports generating £1.7bn in the year to March 2019.

This success is due to Essex’s physical characteristics allowing crop horticulture to thrive as well as its access to skilled labour and expertise which produces high quality food and drink products. Having the driest climate in England, combined with flat topography and access to water, Essex is an ideal location for arable farming.

In the first three months of 2019, the nation’s food and drink exports were valued at £5.7bn. With UK produce taking centre stage in multiple international markets and opportunity particularly growing in Japan, as well as the US and China, now’s the time for East of England businesses to step into the spotlight and put their goods on the table.

Thinley Topden
Head of Exports in the East of England
Department for International Trade

Food and drink companies in Essex

There are 100s of key companies within the county that add to the growing Food & Drink sector in Essex. These include:

Agriculture

  • Allied Mills: operates three flour mills in Tilbury, with one being a specialised semolina milling operation
  • Carrs Mills: specialise in short run artisan flours as well as chapatti flour
  • Davina Steel: award-winning artisan bakery, creating gluten-free bread, focaccia, scones and pizza
  • Fairfields Farm: farming in Colchester for three generations, Fairfields Farm harvest potatoes, maize and rye to produce Fairfields Farm crisps and fresh potatoes 
  • Marriage’s: produces organic certified flour varieties for nearly 30 years in Chelmsford
  • New Holland Agriculture: one the world’s most successful and advanced agricultural machinery manufacturing brands and produces tractors at the UK’s only volume tractor plant
  • Surya Foods: importer sourcing 1000 South Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Oriental food lines for supply to UK wholesalers as well as operating the only basmati rice mill in Essex
  • Wilkins & Sons: grows its own produce and manufactures and sells jams, puddings, savouries etc

Beverages

  • Brentwood Brewing Company: award-winning micro brewery, among just 2% of UK breweries to hold the quality accreditation SALSA plus Beer certification
  • Costa Coffee Roastery: based in Basildon, Costa Coffee ships perfectly roasted coffee beans to more than 3,000 Costa cafes in 31 countries
  • George Thompson: using unwanted apples and pears from their farm, George Thompson create fruit juice called Cotchel. Their sister brand, Reliquum process London Dry Gin with farm-grown botanicals
  • Hayman’s Gin: distilling True English Gins in Witham for over 150 years
  • JW Distillers Ltd: award-winning small batch craft distillery and the only UK distillery to distil Sambuca
  • Maldon Brewing Company: family owned micro-brewery
  • Tuffon Hall: modern vineyard producing award-winning wines of the highest standard

Fruit and vegetables

  • Chelmer Foods: one the largest importers of dried fruit and nuts in the UK
  • Eat Natural: produces snack bars and cereals using imported ingredients such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit and honey
  • George Thompson: market leaders in specialist products for the oriental food service sector and niche crops for premium food service customers
  • Nature’s Finest: processes chocolate, lentils and nuts and carries out contract packaging for companies across the UK
  • P G Rix Farms: supplier to major supermarkets with onions and potatoes
  • R.M. Curtis: specialising in the sourcing, packing and supply of dried fruits, nuts and seeds into the UK food market since 1850, as well as grains, pulses and spices.
  • Winfresh: the only inward investor from the Windward Isles in the UK, ripening banana imports for supply to the UK retail trade

Salads

  • Agrial: the UK’s largest producer of pre-packed salad, offering supermarket own brands, food service offerings and the Florette salad
  • Anglia Salads: specialising in production and marketing of lettuce and chicory and also spinach and a range of seasonable vegetables.
  • Lea Valley Greenhouse: the UK’s largest cucumber producer also producing edible crops such as tomatoes, aubergines, lettuce, baby leaf salads and herbs as well as ornamental produce such as bedding plants, trees, shrubs and flowers
  • Raynor Foods: wholesale provider of sandwiches, rolls, wraps and salads

Other food and drink companies include:

  • Maldon Salt: Master sea salt makers since 1882 and the official purveyors of sea salt to Her Majesty The Queen since 2012
  • Richard Haward’s Oysters: eighth generation oystermen cultivating oysters for the world-renowned Colchester Native Oyster
  • Rossi Ice Cream: producing award-winning ice cream in Southend-on-Sea since 1932

Key access to logistics infrastructure

The proximity of Essex to London and to major transport infrastructure (motorways, ports and airports) is a key driver of investment for businesses in the food and drink sector, which allows access to a skilled labour force and major domestic and international markets.

There are many logistics facilities in Essex that help distribute, manufacture and package food and drink products.

London Stansted Airport is the UK’s third largest airport for cargo including exotic fruit and vegetable airfreight shipment.

The Port of Tilbury is the largest deep-water port on the River Thames, providing fast, modern distribution services for the food and drink sector. Food and drink companies located at the Port of Tilbury include:

  • NFT: distribute prepared chilled food products to the rapidly growing UK grocery retail industry, in both primary and secondary channels
  • ADM Milling: one of the UK’s largest import and distribution business of non-grain feed ingredients
  • JF Hillebrand: transporter of wines, beers and spirits around the world from Port of Tilbury
  • London City Bond: tax warehousing company serving the drinks industry
  • Nippon Gases will be investing a permanent storage terminal for CO2 at the Port of Tilbury, intended primarily for the UK’s food and beverage by the end of 2019

DP World London Gateway combines the UK’s newest deep-sea container port with Europe’s largest logistics park, providing increased productivity and reducing costs. Some companies here include:

  • Halo: part of SH Pratt Group to pack imported chilled fruit and vegetables for retail sale
  • CMA-CGM-LOG will be opening its first UK temperature-controlled warehouse in DP World London Gateway in October 2019

Find out more about the ports and logistics in Essex here.

Access to skilled labour and expertise

Writtle University College has significant post-harvest, supply chain management and sustainability expertise. Current research is focusing upon reducing disease in stored fruits and vegetables and improving postharvest longevity with cut flowers.

The University of Essex has one of the UK’s leading plant productivity research groups, and impressive credentials in the area of plant research. The university also works with Writtle University College to accredit agriculture and horticulture degree programmes. Research areas include crop science, post-harvest tech, and ecosystem management.

To find out more about the food and drink sector in Essex, contact us here: contact@investessex.co.uk

[Source: *The RSA Food, farming and Countryside Commission

**Regeneris Essex Food Sector Study 2015]