Award winning food firms Edme and Blythburgh Free Range Pork share experiences

Peter Tichbon, centre, managing director of malt firm Edme, winner of the Food and Farming Business

Peter Tichbon, centre, managing director of malt firm Edme, winner of the Food and Farming Business of the Year title at the EADT Business Awards, gives Alastair Butler, left, and Jimmy Butler, right, of runners up Blythburgh Free Range Pork a tour of the factory in Mistley. - Credit: Su Anderson

Food heroes came together last month to share experiences after they were honoured at the 2015 East Anglian Daily Times Business Awards in July.

Food and Farming Excellence winner, malted ingredients firm EDME, based at Mistley, near Manningtree, played host to category finalists Blythburgh Free Range Pork, as EDME managing director Peter Tichbon explained how he had turned around the fortunes of the 130-year-old firm after arriving there in October 2012.

EDME, which also was also placed third overall at the awards, was described by judges as “the clear winner against a strong field”.

The business stood out for its outstanding vision, product innovation and a comprehensive management and marketing strategy which helped achieve a dramatic turnaround for the firm, they said.

Peter Tichbon explained how he had set out clear goals for the firm, invested in new plant and looked outside its traditional core bakery market.

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He discussed his systematic approach to managing the company, and the priorities and goals which were set for staff on a regular basis to ensure success.

Employees’ top priority was safety, followed by quality assurance, he explained, and these would not be sacrificed to other concerns, such as getting orders in on time, as it was counter-productive.

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Around £1million has been invested in new plant, he said, but this year the firm expected to make that amount in profit from its 300 or so malted and wholegrain products, including flours, flakes and kibbles.

With traditional bakery in decline, the company has had to look to new markets and innovate its products, and the business set out a rolling list of objectives which were “tracked” through to their conclusion.

Peter said talking to another organisation such as Blythburgh Free Range Pork was “fascinating”. “You learn things all the time. There’s bound to be something there I’ll apply here or somewhere else some day.”

Winning the award against tough competition from two farming businesses was “fantastic”, he added.

“You look at the competition and think: ‘I haven’t got a chance’ because you have got two brilliant businesses with a great product and a great brand,” he said.

“The East Anglian Daily Times Business Awards are the region’s commercial highlight of the year. There’s always stiff competition and a rigorous process of judging so if you make it all the way through to the finals of such prestigious awards, is an honour in itself.

“To go on to actually win a category is simply fantastic. We are extremely proud and absolutely delighted to have been named best company in Food & Farming. It is a tribute to the skills and dedication of the terrific EDME team – and the farmers who supply us. The award demonstrates that historic companies associated with tradition and quality can also be innovative and pioneering – really making a difference in their particular sectors as well as in the regional economy.”

Alastair said as a small company they could get bogged down in the day-to-day, but felt there was “lots we can learn” from the visit, and they would now have conversations off the back of the visit.

“The benefit for us I think is talking about things like change management and understanding the processes Peter has been through with this organisation and his previous organisations. There are still so many ways we could stop being quite so old-fashioned,” he said.

“As a small family business I think we can get tied up with everyday business.”

Jimmy said the meeting had been “so beneficial” and congratulated Peter on the win. He added: “We are so lucky because we enjoy work. I like Monday as good as Friday.”

“We have come a long way over the past 10 years,” added Alastair. “We are the top of pig farming, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from other organisations.”

It is hoped that dairy farmers Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore, of Fen Farm, Bungay, who were also finalists in the Food and Farming Excellence category, will be able to visit the Manningtree site at a later date.

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