‘Business as usual’ for Kerfoot Group after Avril takeover

Jennifer Kerfoot, chief executive, The Kerfoot Group
Jennifer Kerfoot, chief executive, The Kerfoot Group
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The Kerfoot Group has been bought by a specialist oils and proteins company in France.

The £74m-turnover family-owned business, which is headquartered in Northallerton and employs 113 people, has accepted a takeover offer from The Avril Group.

Saipol, a subsidiary of Avril that specialises in vegetable oils, will expand into the UK as a result of the acquisition.

The financial details of the transaction have not been disclosed.

Kerfoot Group chairman and founder David Kerfoot told The Yorkshire Post that the deal - which was “a year in the making” - had presented a lot of opportunities for the business.

He said: “In one way it’s sad, because you’ve built a business from nought in 35 years, but in another way it’s incredibly exciting.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for our people and it’s business going on as it’s always gone on.”

As part of the deal, Kerfoot Group’s existing management - including chief executive Jennifer Kerfoot and commercial director Thomas Kerfoot - will remain in place.

David Kerfoot will exit day-to-day operations to take a role on a higher group board, along with representatives of Avril.

Kerfoot Group was founded in 1980 and specialises in packaging and distributing bulk and packaged edible oils, speciality oils and fats.

Its primary sector is the food service market, but it also supplies the personal care, restaurant and catering industries.

Saipol produces and sells refined vegetable oils that are used for foods, protein-rich animal feeds and biodiesel in France.

The merger follows a long-standing supply partnership between Avril and Kerfoot Group, as Saipol has supplied British business with rapeseed and sunflower oils since the firm’s launch.

Mr Kerfoot said: “I bought my first tanker of oil from Avril 35 years ago.

“Off and on, they’ve been one of our major suppliers. Obviously there’s a lot of synergies there.

“They haven’t got a UK base, they want a UK base; we’re already set up here, so it’s a perfect match. They’ve got technical expertise that we will gain from.

“They want to know a lot more about how we approach our business-to-business clients, so we’ll give them that back. It’s a very exciting time for the group.”

The Kerfoot Group name will be retained, providing further continuity for the business, Mr Kerfoot said.

“One of the key things they were very, very keen on was to maintain the name Kerfoot because there’s a lot of value in it in our markets,” he said.

“Nothing will be changed on a truck or a tanker or a ship or anything like that, we’ll still be known as Kerfoot.”

Mr Kerfoot’s new board role will see him develop strategy alongside the firm’s owners, but he will remain at arms length from Kerfoot Group’s day-to-day business.

The entrepreneur - who is also deputy chairman of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership - added: “It’s business as usual, just today we have a different owner. I’m going on to revamp my life without Kerfoot Group.”

Jean-Philippe Puig, chief executive of Avril, said the French company works on the same principles that have grown Kerfoot into a successful company.

He said: “For the past 35 years, The Kerfoot Group has grown considerably while remaining faithful to the entrepreneurial spirit and customer service ethos that drove its creation.

“Together, we share the same values and the same vision for the oils and proteins sector.”

The firm is “particularly proud” of its international development and growth prospects in the UK, he added.

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David Kerfoot launched The Kerfoot Group with £300 in 1980. From humble beginnings working on the company with wife and co-founder Elizabeth at the family home, the firm grew to its current Northallerton offices and production facilities in Goole.

His daughter Jennifer succeeded him as chief executive in 2013. Son Thomas leads commercial development at the business.