Associated British Foods plc

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Associated British Foods plc is a diversified international food, ingrediants and retail group with global sales of £6 billion and 75,000 employees. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of £7.2 billion. It operates in 46 countries with significant businesses outside Europe in Southern Africa, the US, China and Australia. Its holding company is Wittington Investments Limited.

Its aim is to achieve strong, sustainable leadership positions in markets that offer potential for profitable growth. It strives to achieve this through a combination of organic growth, the acquisition of complementary businesses and achievement of high levels of operating efficiency. The group has established a track record of successful value adding acquisitions including Illovo Sugar, AB Mauri (its leading international yeast and bakery ingredients business), Littlewoods stores for Primark and the grocery brands Mazola and Ovaltine.


The company was developed by Canadian businessman, W. Garfield Weston, in tandem with his North American operations, George Weston Ltd.. ABF was incorporated in 1935. It was initially a bakery business, and it promoted the concept of selling sliced bread in the 1930s. The group's subsidiaries include British Sugar plc (bought in 1991), flour milling group Allied Mills, animal foodstuffs company Allied Grain and food ingredients company Abitec Corporation. It also owns a discount clothing retailer, Primark (Penneys in the Republic of Ireland). Current brands of ABF subsidiaries include Allison, Sunblest and Kingsmill bread, Silver Spoon, Ovaltine, Ryvita, Mazola oil and Twinings tea.

Following the death of the founder in 1978, control of ABF was passed on to his son Garry, while the North American operations fell to his son Galen. While Garry maintained the company's prominence in the European foods market, ABF's growth has been eclipsed by the phenomenal performance of George Weston Ltd.. George G. Weston of the British Westons became chief executive of ABF on 1 April 2005, and Galen Weston, the chief executive of George Weston Ltd, is a non-executive director. Garth Weston is Regional President of AB Mauri.

The company formerly owned the Burtons Biscuits brand which it sold in 2000 to a private equity firm and is now part of Burtons Foods.

In 1997 ABF sold its retail operations in Northern Ireland and the Republic to Tesco. These businesses were: Quinnsworth and Crazy Prices in the Republic of Ireland and Stewarts Supermarkets Ltd and Crazy Prices in Northern Ireland, the Stewarts Winebarrel off-licence chain, Lifestyle Sports & Leisure Ltd. (a retail sports and leisure business), Kingsway Fresh Foods (a meat processing facility) and Daily Wrap Produce (a fruit and vegetable packaging plant).

In May 2007 the group purchased Patak's Indian food business.[1]

On 14 Sept 2007 the group purchased 20% of the share capital ofW Jordan & Son (Silo) Limited (“Jordans”). Jordans had sales of £81m for the year ended February 2007 and gross assets of £40m at 28 February 2007.[2]


  • British Sugar is a substantial business within ABF. It has operations in the UK, Poland, China and Southern Africa which process some 4 million tonnes of sugar annually. It is recognised as the most efficient sugar producer in Europe and has a proven ability to create value through improvement in agricultural yields, operational efficiencies, co-product development, marketing and product innovation. A number of its operations are already successful joint ventures. It has world class production facilities and technical expertise. Wissington in Norfolk is the largest and most efficient beet sugar factory in the world and is the site for the UK’s first bioethanol plant.
  • AB Agri (Associated British Agriculture) is the UK’s largest and most successful agri business supplying technology driven products, including animal feeds, and services to improve agricultural efficiency. Its products are sold worldwide and it has established a successful feed manufacturing business in China. Its KW Trident business is the UK’s market leader in the sourcing, development and marketing of food, drink and energy industry co-products. Co-product feeds are a developing part of livestock feeding and KW Trident are at the forefront of this development.
  • Frontier Agriculture is the UK's leading grain marketer and supplier of agricultural inputs. It operates from 36 sites in the UK and has a revenue of £650m. Frontier was formed in 2005, through the merger of Allied Grain and Banks Cargill Agriculture, and is owned in equal shares by ABF and Cargill. Frontier works closely with farmers to advise on crop selection and agronomy to manage for optimum yield and quality. It offers farmers a unique opportunity to grow for specific markets with contracts tailored to suit them. An understanding of the whole supply chain enables Frontier
  • Associated British Nutrition (ABN) is another subsidiary of ABF. ABN produces most of its animal feed through a further subsidiary of the company called J. Bibby Agriculture with further subsidiaries that also manufacture animal feed. It is the third largest animal feed manufacturer in the UK and one of the biggest users of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country. The company uses unsegregated (mixed GM and non-GM) soya and maize in many of its animal feed products.
  • George Weston Foods (GWF) is a wholly owned subsidiary of ABF. GWF's principal operations are undertaken throughout Australia and New Zealand. The company also has joint ventures in the United States and Thailand. GWF is one of Australia's largest food manufacturers. This is a different company from Weston Foods a subsidiary of George Weston limited.


In 2006, ABF announced that it has reached agreement with BP and DuPont on an investment to build a world-scale biofuel plant in the UK. The joint venture not only built but then operated the business. ABF and BP each hold 45% of the joint venture and DuPont hold the remaining 10%.

The plant will produce bioethanol from wheat and will be built at a cost of £200m at BP’s chemicals site at Saltend, Hull. Its capacity will be 420m litres (330,000 tonnes) of bioethanol per year and is planned to come on stream in late 2009. ABF expects a return on its investment ahead of its cost of capital in the first full year of operation.

The plant will initially produce bioethanol, but the partners will look at the feasibility of converting it to biobutanol once the technology is available. BP and DuPont intend to build a jointly funded biobutanol demonstration plant, which will run in parallel with the main plant, to support this objective.

It is expected that formal agreements will be entered into by the joint venture, after its formation, with other ABF businesses: Frontier Agriculture and AB Agri. The supply of locally grown wheat would be arranged by Frontier which is the UK’s leading grain marketer and supplier of agricultural inputs. The major co-product of bioethanol production, distillers’ grain, would be sold to AB Agri. It will use its highly specialised sales and marketing business, which sources and develops co-products from the food, drink and energy industries, to market the distillers’ grain as an alternative feed for livestock.

The announcement followed the previously announced investment by British Sugar in early 2006 to build the UK’s first bioethanol plant at Wissington, Norfolk. Its capacity will be 70m litres (55,000 tonnes) of bioethanol a year, using sugar beet as a feedstock, and the plant will start production next month.

The European Investment Bank finalised its approval for the provision of £120m of project financing for both of ABF's biofuel investments at attractive interest rates. This would be the first direct financing provided by the Bank for a biofuel project.


Board of Directors 2015

  • Charles Sinclair - Chairman
  • George Weston - Chief executive appointed April 2005. He has been Managing Director of Westmill Foods, Allied Bakeries and George Weston Foods Ltd (Australia) he has been a member of the ABF board since 1999.
  • John Bason - Finance Director, previously Executive director he was also previously the finance director of Bunzl plc.
  • Emma Adamo - Non-executive director
  • Ruth Cairnie - Independent non-executive director, appointed in May 2014. She has extensive overseas experience including international marketing and supply chain having formerly worked as executive vice president strategy & planning at Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
  • Tim Clarke - Independent non-executive director, appointed a director on 3 November 2004. He has been chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers plc since the demerger from Six Continents PLC in 2003. He joined Bass PLC in 1990 having previously been a partner of Panmure Gordon & Co.
  • Lord Jay of Ewelme GCMG -Independent non-executive director, appointed 1 Nov 2006. British Ambassador to France from 1996 to 2001, Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office from 2002 to 2006, and the Prime Minister’s Personal Representative for the G8 Summits at Gleneagles and St Petersburg in 2005 and 2006. His early career included time at the World Bank in Washington and the British High Commission in New Delhi.
  • Javier Ferrán - Independent non-executive director, appointed 1 Nov 2006. He spent his earlier career with Bacardi Group, his last position being president and chief executive officer. He is currently a partner at Lion Capital LLP, a London-based private equity firm. He is a non-executive director of Abbot plc and vice-chairman of William Grant and Sons Limited.
  • Peter Smith - Independent non-executive director, appointed a director in February 2007 and brings 'broad experience of international financial matters'. [3] He was previously a senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the UK.
  • Wolfhart Hauser - Independent non-executive director, appointed in January 2015. [4]

Previous Personnel

Affiliations, related



Lobbying firms

Contact Details, links, notes


External links

Published: 08 December 2005


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. Board of Directors Associated British Foods plc, accessed 17 April 2015
  4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Board
  5. Register 1st September 2014 - 30th November 2014 APPC, accessed 28 January 2015