Halesworth: Family dairy products enterprise Marybelle enters partnership deal with Belgian firm Pur Natur

James Strachan and Katherine Manning of Marybelle Dairy in Walpole who have just gone into business

James Strachan and Katherine Manning of Marybelle Dairy in Walpole who have just gone into business with Filip Rouffé - Credit: Lucy taylor

Celebrated local dairy firm Marybelle has entered into a partnership with a Belgian company to help it grow.

James Strachan and Katherine Manning of Marybelle Dairy in Walpole who have just gone into business

James Strachan and Katherine Manning of Marybelle Dairy in Walpole who have just gone into business with Filip Rouffé - Credit: Lucy taylor

The family-run firm, started by Rendham-based dairy farmers the Strachans 13 years ago, will continue to produce and supply wholly British milk and dairy products after teaming up with Pur Natur, which is also a family-run dairy business.

The business, now known as Marybelle Pur Natur Ltd, is aiming to develop the Marybelle brand, both locally and regionally from its plant at Walpole, near Halesworth, where it employs around 20 staff.

The partnership revolves around the milk, cream and yogurt business, but Marybelle’s ice cream arm will remain separate.

Katherine Manning, who runs the company with brother, James Strachan, said: “They came to us - we didn’t go looking, which is a really nice situation to be in and we decided it was the right time and that we could do with some assistance.”


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Marybelle products would remain 100% British, she stressed.

By coincidence, the Strachans have strong Belgian family links as Katherine and James’ grandmother, now aged 92, is Flemish and they visit the country at least once a year, she said.

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The family behind Pur Natur has a great deal of experience in yogurt production, which is a “massive benefit” to Marybelle, she added.

The deal means Marybelle, which was last year crowned Supreme Champion at the Great Taste awards for its Greek-style yogurt, will be able to invest in new vehicles and plant.

“We have designed a new logo and at the beginning of November all the packaging will be brand new to give a fresh look to Marybelle,” she said. “Next year we’ll start looking at adding new Marybelle lines. We don’t want to change who we are. Our quality and values are still the same. We want to be sustainable and responsible and want to provide a fair price for dairy farmers supplying Marybelle and we want to bring a good product to our customers.”

Filip Rouffé, the son-in-law of Pur Natur founder Marc Verhamme, visits the Halesworth site regularly and the two families are working together to see what the business needs and how to develop it.

“We could have carried on as we were. We were doing really well. Our sales grew by 40% last year, but James and I just felt we needed assistance. We were already on the right footing. The Great Taste award helped with that and sales are continuing to grow,” she said.

“I’m excited. Change is not always easy to take but most of the times it’s for the best and you have just got to embrace it and if it means I can take on more local farmers so I can product more products, it’s still taking us back to our roots, which is with farmers in East Anglia.”

The firm already supplies a number of wholesalers in East Anglia and provides milk, cream and yogurt to 18 East of England Co-ops, as well as supplying into Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda. Its turnover last year was around £2million and it hopes to raise that to £3m.

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