Whitworths – Good By Nature

Whitworths, the UK’s leader in dried fruits, nuts & seeds, is using its experience to offer innovative, tasty products to help keep the nation healthy.

It is fair to say that in the UK, Whitworths is a household name, famous for bringing healthy baking ingredients to consumers for more than a century. Founded in 1886 by three Whitworth brothers, the company has become, over the course of more than a century, a leading importer, manufacturer and distributor of dried fruit, nuts and seeds in the country, offering a wide range of quality-assured natural raw materials for the food manufacturing industry, supplied from the company’s own BRC accredited production site.

In 2017, the company reached a significant turning point when it was acquired by Anatolia, a leading Turkish dried fruit and nut wholesaler. The acquisition has given Whitworth new impetus and a new drive for innovation and development while making Anatolia one of the largest European companies operating in dried fruits, nuts and seeds.

CEO Mark Fairweather says: “After changing hands several times over the last 40 years, the company is now in private ownership, meaning that the focus is now very much on long-term growth, and further promotion of this traditional, well-established brand in its two core business lines – dried fruit, nuts and seeds; and beans, pulses and cereals.”

“Over the last five years, we have put a lot of effort into repositioning the brand from the heritage of home baking to match the trend of healthy snacking, offering an expanded portfolio in response to what consumers are looking for in today’s environment, at a time when the importance of a healthy lifestyle has been made even more evident by the pandemic.”

Goodness of nature

The re-positioning came with considerable investment, he says, both in manufacturing equipment and in the Whitworths brand. The focus on R&D has also increased and new products have been launched, including the Shots range – packets of different combinations of dried fruits, seeds and nuts with a hint of indulgence; Protein By Nature – plant-based protein products for vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians, as well as the ready meals category.

“Much hard work has gone into these new product categories, making sure that we access all channels and develop new markets as well. In the last 18 months, we have penetrated 12 new markets, and are progressing further,” notes Mark Fairweather.

He points out that Whitworths now has a complete portfolio covering all meal occasions from breakfast solutions through morning snacking, to lunch, afternoon snacking all the way to dinner solutions and evening snacking – all very healthy, natural and clean.

The company markets its own brands such as Sunny, the famous raisins and other dried fruit packs and Great Scot – the beans and pulses products popular in Scotland, in addition to the recently launched brands, but packs also for a number of retailers under their own brands such as Waitrose, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and others, although the content is slightly different, explains Mr Fairweather.

“The ‘natural’ aspect really is key. The vast majority of our products are sun-dried, with a minimum carbon footprint. We do focus strongly on the environmental impact, as well as on making sure that we have the right quality and traceability, and that the correct methods of harvesting, as well as ethical standards, are applied throughout the whole supply chain”.

“Our majority shareholder is a fruit processor himself and his knowledge of processing dried fruit is second to none, as his whole life has been dedicated to understanding and mastering the art of drying fruit. Harvesting, processing and fair trading are all things that we monitor very closely.”

Whitworths fully supports the ‘Circular Economy Process’, whereby consumer packaging is manufactured from a mono-material with the specific aim of it being collected to be recycled, actively working with its suppliers to develop ‘recyclable packaging’ solutions for all of its products. The company uses recycled plastic for ‘non-food contact’ applications such as its ‘Shots’ display trays.

A trusted brand

Whitworths sources its raw materials from many countries of the world, and trusted relationships with suppliers, some of whom have been working with the company for many decades, are key, says Mark Fairweather, pointing out that it is precisely these solid relationships that have helped to ease the current challenge of freight and logistics.

“With regard to shipment delays, we have increased stock levels to be able to meet demand. Then there is the challenge of outbound logistics given the limited availability of drivers, but this is something that every company in the UK is facing at the moment, and we have been handling the challenge well.”

Post-pandemic, the company is set to continue investing in both capacity and brand promotion. A new production hall for nuts processing was completed in early spring, and a processing hall for beans, pulses and cereals is being built right now, to be followed by a pasteurisation facility.

Summarising current market developments and future prospects, Mr Fairweather says: “Given the enhanced awareness of healthy eating, further promoted by the new government legislation on advertising restrictions for products high in fat, salt and sugar, affecting their positioning in stores, Whitworths is set to continue its growth journey.”

“Our brand awareness is very high with 78% of consumers regarding us a trusted brand. This, combined with current market developments and the increased focus on natural food products opens up new opportunities. We are going to use our expertise to continue to provide innovative, tasty, healthy products that help consumers keep up with the healthy lifestyle demands of today’s world.”

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