Ipswich: Family unsentimental about BOCM Pauls name change
- Credit: Lucy Taylor
Descendants of the founder of an Ipswich-based animal feed business which is set to undergo a name-change this year say they are unsentimental about the loss of the historic brand.
BOCM Pauls can trace its roots back to founder George Paul, who started the business in the early 19th century in Key Street, Ipswich. Members of the prominent farming family still live in Suffolk.
The founder’s namesake, George Paul, 74, his great-great-great grandson, who lives at Wherstead, ran the business for many years during the latter part of the 20th century.
While he doesn’t mind the family name disappearing, when faced with the same dilemma many years previously after BOCM was brought on board, his own feeling was that the loss of the name could be a turn-off for some traditionally-minded customers, which was why he decided to incorporate BOCM into the brand, he said.
“One must not be emotional about it. I think these things are commercial decisions, but I would suspect some of the competitors rubbed their hands together when they heard it was being renamed,” he said.
However, his son, Oliver, who set up independent retail business the Suffolk Food Hall at Wherstead with cousin, Rob, felt a rebranding was timely and that it would be a better portrayal of what the business now is.
“Whilst it’s closing the chapter on one part of history, it’s opening a new chapter,” he said. “It’s interesting with the business how it’s gone through its evolution. There’s a lot of heritage there but a lot of people don’t know what the heritage is.”
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While holidaying in Shropshire, he had come across an old BOCM Pauls advertisement and felt the old haymaker icon was “a little bit dated”.
“I really felt it was not what the business is any more,” he said. “ForFarmers is a much better and stronger brand.”
He added: “Of course, there’s a lot of nostalgia associated with it, but it’s the closing of one chapter and the opening of another.”
The name of R & W Paul can still be seen on a prominent sign made of black and white tiles on the now empty Pauls building on the waterfront and has become part of the fabric of the town.
The Dutch firm which bought BOCM Pauls in 2012, ForFarmers Group, creating the largest feed business in Europe, announced plans in August to change the name as part of a corporate re-branding exercise.
Its chief executive, Yoram Knoop, said: “We will in the coming months begin the re-branding of our activities in the United Kingdom to the ForFarmers brand and this brand will be used by all other ForFarmers companies within the next 12 months, with the exception of Reudink, Pavo and PoultryPlus.”
BOCM Pauls’ national office is at Wherstead in Ipswich where it employs 40 staff. It also has compound mills at Bury St Edmunds and at Burston in Norfolk. It employs about 1,000 staff across the UK at its 22 sites, including blend plants and compound mills.
Pauls Agriculture was founded in Ipswich in 1840, trading in malt and barley for the brewing industry. This expanded into trading of maize and other foods for horses. From the early 1900s, it started to produce food for other animals too. BOCM Silcock, originally British Oil and Cake Mills Ltd. also started in the 19th Century and was one of the earliest crushers of oilseeds to make vegetable oils for human consumption and for soap.
It did well between the wars, when it was selling American maize, which was very cheap at the time. For obvious reasons, it was not very popular in that era, said George Paul.
George started with R & W Paul Ltd back in 1962. It became a public company, although it was largely run by the Paul family in those days, as it still had quite a large stake in it. It was bought by Harrisons and Crosfield in the mid-1980s, and George Paul went on to run that company as well until 1994 when he stepped down. When his successor decided he wanted to focus on chemicals and sell of BOCM Pauls, it was bought through a management buyout and Mr Paul became its chairman. Eventually they sold it to ForFarmers “who I must say are extremely decent people,” said Mr Paul.
“I look at it this way. In the days when I was running Pauls we bought quite a lot of companies and indeed, we bought BOCM. When you buy a company, it’s always very tempting to stick your name on it straight away but you have to think does your name have a currency in the market. Certainly when we bought BOCM we thought it had,” he said.
“We thought if we did away with the BOCM name we might lose some of those customers. We’ll never know whether that was the case.”
The ForFarmers group, which employs 2,200 people across the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and the UK, saw its gross profits rise by 6% to £158million in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, and this year it expanded even further in the UK when it acquired UK-based firms HST Feeds and Wheyfeed.