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Death of Bernard Matthews

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Death of Bernard Matthews

Death of Bernard Matthews
November 27
10:47 2010

Bernard Matthews, the founder of Bernard Matthews Farms, the largest turkey processor in the UK, has died at the age of 80. From simple beginnings, with an initial investment of just £2.50 sixty years ago, Bernard Matthews was responsible for taking the business from twenty turkey eggs and a second-hand paraffin incubator to a successful £330m turnover company. In developing his food venture he was responsible for making turkey affordable for mass consumption at Christmas time and establishing the meat as a popular meal for consumers throughout the year.

Bernard Matthews remains Britain’s biggest turkey brand and one of the top 30 largest UK grocery brands, with more than 13 million households buying a Bernard Matthews Farms branded product every year.

Headquartered near Norwich in Norfolk and employing about 2000 people across East Anglia, Bernard Matthews Farms is a vertically integrated poultry business and farmed seven million turkeys last year. In its last financial year ended January 3rd 2010, the group achieved sales from continuing operations of £330.5m and generated an operating profit before exceptional costs of £2.5m.

Of course, the company suffered a major set back in February 2007 when it was forced to slaughter 160,000 turkeys following an outbreak of avian flu at its Suffolk farm and factory complex. The incident cost the company millions of pounds due to the consequent sharp drop in sales and damage to the brand.

In recent years, Bernard Matthews became less involved in the day-to-day running of the company and on his 80th birthday in January, he stepped down as group chairman.

“He is the man who effectively put turkey on the plates of everyday working families and in so doing became one of the largest employers in rural East Anglia and a major supporter of the local farming community,” says Noel Bartram, group chief executive of Bernard Matthews Farms, who knew Bernard Matthews for well over thirty years. “Through his own struggles as a young entrepreneur, he was always keen to support young people and the company was a founder Charter Member of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. Thanks to the success of the business he also helped support many other charitable causes, often in an unsung manner, but notably the independent Caister Lifeboat and the Nelson Museum in Great Yarmouth, both of which demonstrated his keen love of Norfolk and the sea.”

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