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Management buyout at Puffin produce
Management buyout at Puffin produce
Farmer shareholders at Haverfordwest-based Puffin Produce have relinquished control of the co-operative in a management buyout deal.

The potato, vegetable and flower specialist was majority-owned by its growers in Pembrokeshire but they have sold 50 per cent of their stake in the business to managing director Huw Thomas and finance director Jon Langmead.

Lifecrown Investments, which had a 49 per cent stake in Puffin and has been a partner in the business for over 25 years, acquired the remaining 1 per cent of their shareholding.

Puffin Produce can trace its roots back to the 1970s when it was formed to help farmers market potatoes; it has since built its success on developing robust and sustainable supply chains.

It supplies retailer own-label potatoes, vegetables and daffodils as well as under its own Blas-y-Tir brand.

Rosemarket farmer Richard Hayman, who chairs the company that held the growers' shares, said the board felt that the time was now right for change.

He said growers were confident that the new company structure would 'ensure a successful potato and vegetable business, in Pembrokeshire, for the future'.

Mr Thomas pledged that it would be 'business as usual' at Puffin following the restructuring.

He said Puffin's cultural roots as a business that had shares held by growers would ensure that it remained focused on a supply chain that works for its customers, colleagues, farmers and other suppliers.

Huw Thomas, Business to managing Director at Puffin Produce:

“Quite simply, without our growers there is no Puffin Produce business.”

“It is our ambition to work closely with each of them going forward, which will include us having joint business plans together.”
Mr Thomas said the confidence of shareholders in the new structure and what it meant for them going forward was evidenced by 100 per cent of them voting in favour of the change.

There has been a high level of investment in Puffin Produce in recent years, including state-of-the-art cold storage and packing facilities.

The agenda of the new owners is to continue with that investment strategy, which will include further automation in the Haverfordwest factory, said Mr Langmead.

He confirmed that the company planned to expand its offering, and that the change would help accelerate those plans.

There is speculation that this could include expansion into dairy processing.

Mark Harrod, a joint director in Lifecrown Investments also has business interests in the dairy sector; he is a director of R E Evans Farms Limited and in 2017 that company acquired two dairy farms in Pembrokeshire.

Mr Harrod:

“The business had grown and changed substantially over the last 10 years and that had set it up to fulfil the opportunities that we see ahead.”
Puffin’s most recent set of accounts show revenues topping £25m.

The news of the management buyout came shortly after Puffin Produce announced a partnership with Aldi to stock its exclusive range of local Pembrokeshire early potatoes in stores across Wales.