Why this supplier to Walkers crisps has acquired a potato seed business

Potato specialist Wolds Produce has completed the acquisition of potato seed supplier WM Quarrie for an undisclosed sum.

seed investment: Graham Bennett, seed director of Wolds Produce and seed managers Stuart Fox, Andrew Johnston and Bill Quarrie.
seed investment: Graham Bennett, seed director of Wolds Produce and seed managers Stuart Fox, Andrew Johnston and Bill Quarrie.

Wolds Produce, based in Pocklington near York, was founded in 2004 by Simon Tootell and local farmer Simon Foster, It was set up as a potato trading business offering crops from the York area to packers.

Wolds Produce has since grown to become a major potato supplier into the crisping, chipping, ware, and seed industries across the whole of the UK.

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Over the last three years, its crisping operation has doubled in volume with its customers supplying around 80 per cent of all the crisps in the UK market – these include Walkers Seabrook, the Tayto Group and Yorkshire Crisps.

Last year it acquired 26 per cent of WM Quarrie, run by Bill Quarrie and Stuart Fox, which over the last nine years has become a successful independent seed business.

The deal, which was negotiated by Leeds law firm Clarion’s corporate team, included a call option which Wolds Produce has now taken up with the acquisition of the remaining shareholding completing on June 29.

Mr Tootell said: “Back in 2013, we were supplying around 10,000 tonnes of crisping potatoes, 15,000 tonnes of free-buy ware sales, and 3,000 tonnes of seed - with a very small team.

"At that time there was still a lot of spot-market sales, but that has shifted massively over recent years with changing weather patterns making buyers move more towards the certainty of contracts.

"We, therefore, looked at where we thought the industry was heading and took the decision to specialise in areas where we could see growth opportunities, namely focussing on expanding our seed and crisping markets.”

The advisers to Wolds Produce on the deal included Alex Cooper of Clarion who provided legal advice and BHP Corporate Finance which provided tax advice.

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