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Top 10 food and drink-producing companies in Surrey, Kent and Sussex

By Steve Charnock
5 July 2022

Last month, The Business Magazine announced the finalists for the inaugural Surrey Kent Sussex 250 listing awards. To qualify for the listing, companies must be fully independent, privately-owned and HQ'd in one of the three counties of its name.

We've been taking a look at some of those organisations that feature, exploring the SMEs succeeding in manufacturing recently. Here, for this feature, we're looking at some of Surrey, Kent and Sussex's most prosperous larger food and drinks firms.

Here's the Top 10:

#1. Fresca Group - Tonbridge (annual turnover: £382.6m)

This Kent-based produce supplier sources, prepares, packs and delivers high quality fresh fruit, salads and vegetables to customers all across Britain. In fact, they're the country's largest privately-owned supplier of fresh produce.

Fresca provide fresh produce for supermarkets, shops, wholesalers, food service companies and caterers up and down the UK and can count more than a dozen subsidiaries under its wider name. Including the Avocado Company, Mack Fruit, DGM Growers, Manor Fresh, Cartama and Thanet Earth (see #5).

#2. Natures Way Food - Selsey (£193.4m)

Based just outside of Chichester, Natures Way are - in their own words - 'a leading manufacturer of fresh convenient food' that 'supply retailers and food service companies with prepared salads, coleslaw and potato salad, and fresh-food-to-go salad meals.'

You'll find produce from the firm in all major supermarkets. They employ more than 1,400 people and operate four large manufacturing units.

#3. Barfoots of Botley - Bognor Regis (£193.1m)

West Sussex's Barfoots have more than four decades of cultivating and agricultural experience behind them. In that time they've gone from running a small farm with just a handful of employees to operating one of the country's biggest fresh produce providers.

They're an award-winning organisation that combine traditional farming techniques with technologically-advanced cropping practices and specialise in semi-exotic vegetables.

#4. Richard Hochfeld - Borough Green (£184.2m)

Richard Hochfeld Ltd. have been one of Europe's foremost independent fruit importers for almost a century now, specialising in grapes, cherries, apples and pears. They're a major international player and a respected name, with an operation based out of Borough Green in Kent.

#5. A. Gomez Ltd. - Canterbury (£169m)

With over 100 suppliers from across the globe, A Gomez Ltd is leading fresh produce supplier with a large portfolio of suppliers and clients and an even bigger history. They've been doing what they do for some seven decades now.

Their fruit and vegetables are sourced from their own farms, with 3,250 hectares of owned production in Spain, 11 hectares in the Netherlands and 15 hectares in Britain.

#6. Thanet Earth - Birchington (£103.7m)

Thanet Earth is home to the largest greenhouse complex in the UK. It covers some 90 hectares - or 220 acres - of land. Producing around 400 million tomatoes, 24 million peppers and 30 million cucumbers each and every a year. For context, that's equal to approximately 12%, 11% and 8% of Britain’s entire annual production of those ingredients.

The nicely-named Thanet Earth is part-owned by the #1 entry on this list, Fresca.

#7. Golden Acre Foods - Chertsey (£82.7m)

Surrey's Golden Acre source and distribute various foods from all across the world. Operating in 15 countries worldwide, they supply to large retailers and supermarkets, wholesalers and other food service customers across UK & Ireland.

The company also provides suppliers and customers with product development, sales, marketing, sustainability, technical and supply chain help and consultancy services. In five years, Golden Acre has grown 14%.

#8. Lovering Foods - Redhill (£75.2m)

With more than 40 years of experience, Lovering Foods are now the UK's biggest own label supplier of canned fish and its largest Pole & Line and FAD-Free tuna supplier.

They are 'the UK’s leading, award winning, independently owned importers and distributors of high-quality ambient products' who 'scour the world to source products and work in partnership with our suppliers in pursuit of the richest flavours'. Their 'diverse selection of seafood, fruit, vegetables and Oriental products are predominantly sold under UK and Ireland supermarkets’ own labels'.

#9. Cook Trading - Sittingborne (£71.8m)

Established back in 1997, the Kent-based Cook have gone on to become one of the country's top frozen manufacturers with their impressive range of high-end microwave meals.

The success comes from the quality of the food, something you don't always associated with meals that can be cooked at home in under five minutes. Their founding statement elaborates: “To cook using the same ingredients and techniques a good cook would use at home, so everything looks and tastes homemade.”

#10. Grapes Direct - Maidstone (£52.8m)

Importing grapes from 15 countries and packing and storing them here in the UK from their Maidstone HQ, Grapes Direct have quietly gone about becoming the UK’s leading specialist grape importer.

The company puts part of its success down to the fact that it's specialised in and focused on just one (profitable) market, allowing it to develop fairly rapidly.

READ MORE: Top 10 manufacturing SMEs in the Surrey, Kent and Sussex