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Food & Drink -> Curry Kings of Britain
 
 
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CURRY KINGS OF BRITAIN
By Lopa Patel (April 2008)

Curry Kings of BritainWith the UK ethnic foods market (including rice) worth £1.38bn at retail selling prices in 2006 and curry taking a major chunk of this sector, just who are the real "curry kings" in Britain today? The fastest growing sector within ethnic foods is convenience meals, ready meals and microwaveable dishes so perhaps the most well known curry king, therefore, is Sir Gulam Noon (G K Noon) of Noon Products, that specialises in just such meals for supermarket outlets.

He is followed closely by Kirit Pathak of Patak's sauces and pickles business (now owned by Galen Weston's Associated British Foods). Few realise the impact of the cash and carry businesses on the ethnic foods market, so my list of curry kings continues with Sir Anwar Pervez of Bestway Cash & Carry and the sons of Taherally Rehmanji Suterwalla of TRS, followed closely by Moni Varma of Veetee Rice.

ABOUT SIR G K NOON

Sir Gulam NoonGulam Kaderbhoy Noon - better known as G K Noon- took over his family sweet business in Rajasthan, India, before moving to the UK and expanding the cottage industry into a multi-million pound food business, Noon Products Ltd. From two factories in Southall, West London, Noon Products now produces more than three million Indian meals a month.

Noon Products Ltd started as a family business in 1989 with a range of just four products. Today they manufacture over 250 different chilled and frozen ready meals, predominantly under supermarkets' own brand ranges. From premises of 6,000 sq ft Noon Products Ltd started at a time when ethnic cuisine was just beginning to emerge, with a handful of loyal colleagues who were totally committed to this venture.

In the intervening years, Noon Products has grown at an enormous rate despite a huge set back in 1994 when a fire destroyed the original factory. Noon Products was able to recommence supply in just 21 days, bringing forward the opening of the new site at Collett Way. In order to meet demand for more capacity a second site was opened on the same industrial estate in 1998. A third factory in Windmill Lane was opened in 2003 and, in the same year, Marston Valley Foods was acquired and its operation transferred to the new site.

In 2005, Noon Products was acquired by Kerry Foods for £124million. Noon Products currently employs in the region of 900 employees and sells to major supermarket brands like Sainsburys and Waitrose and it also has licences to use the 'Bombay Brasserie' and 'Quilon' brands for its premium range offerings.

Noon Products Ltd, Windmill Lane, Southall, Middlesex UB2 4NA. T: 0208 571 1866, F: 020 85712672, e: info@noon.co.uk, www.noon.co.uk

ABOUT KIRIT PATHAK

Kirit PathakPatak's was founded by Kirit Pathak's father Laxmishanker Pathak in 1957. He arrived in Britain from Kenya with £5 and a life insurance policy and started selling samosas from his London kitchen. Today Patak's makes Indian foods, including curry pastes, pickles and pappadums. Employing 700 people, it produces 30million jars of sauces, 1.5 million ready meals, 1 million snacks and 2,700 tonnes of spice each year. Patak's also supplies three quarters of Britain's Indian restaurants.

Kirit Pathak and his wife Meena, whom he met in 1976 on a buying trip to India, took over the business and continued to run it until its sale to Associated British Foods (ABF) in 2007. ABF have retained their services: Kirit will be chairman of AB Foods' new world foods division and Meena Pathak will be a director. She approves every Patak's recipe and helps develop 20 new recipes every year.

The sale to ABF takes Kirit Pathak from running a business with a £66m turnover (2006) to one with sales of between £150m and £200m per annum. ABF is estimated to have paid £120 million for the Patak's business, although the exact sum paid was kept "under wraps" following a bitter feud between Kirit and his sisters over the ownership of the 40-year old company. The sisters alleged they were cheated out of shares left to them by their father. The matter was eventually resolved with an out-of-court settlement of an estimated £8 million in October 2004.

Patak's Foods Ltd, Kiribati Way, Leigh, Lancashire, WN7 5RS
Tel: 01942 267 000, Fax: 01942 267 070, www.pataks.co.uk

SIR ANWAR PERVEZ

Sir Anwar PervezBorn in a small town near Rawalpindi, Pakistan in 1935, Sir Anwar Pervez came to England in 1956, aged 21. He became a bus conductor in Bradford before opening his first mini supermarket, Kashmir, in London's Earls Court in 1963. He pioneered the availability of halal meat and other halal food products. This visionary step brought instant recognition from the Pakistani and Muslim community throughout West London. By the early seventies he had ten mini supermarkets in and around West London. Their mission was to offer convenience at an affordable price.

He launched Bestway Holdings, a cash-and-carry firm in 1976. At the time wholesalers were making about 10% gross profit. Sir Anwar thought that he could manage with 4% and pass the saving on to whomever he supplied - allowing them to pass the saving on to their customers. It worked. By the mid-eighties Bestway had six warehouses.

Today, according to The Sunday Times Rich List, he (with his family) is worth an estimated £543 million. Moreover, Bestway does not look as if it is losing its lustre. Net margins for the cash-and-carry business are still thin - 1.5% - but group profits were up 27%, from £57.2 million to £73 million in 2005 to 2006, on an annual turnover up 26 % from £1.35 billion to £1.7 billion over the same period.

The Bestway Group, Abbey Rd, Park Royal, London NW10 7BW Tel: +44(0)20 8453 1234 Fax: +44(0)20 8965 0359

TAHERALLY REHMANJI SUTERWALLA (T R S)

Taherally Rehmanji SuterwallaT.R. Suterwalla and Sons Ltd was founded in 1959 by Mr Taherally Rehmanji Suterwalla - hence the brand name 'TRS' - at a time when it was extremely difficult to find authentic Asian food ingredients. Recognising this drawback to culinary diversity, Mr Suterwalla set out, quite literally, on a voyage of discovery to source and ship the finest ethnic food products from around the world.

The increase in popularity of Asian foods has resulted in continuous growth for the TRS Group. Today, TRS is a leading ethnic food brand, its label is found in supermarkets and grocery outlets throughout the UK - and further distributed throughout the European Union, Russia, Canada and the USA. TRS provides a full range for catering establishments including mango chutney, pickles, papadums, red split lentils, gram flour and a host of whole and ground spices and exotic canned fruits.

As well as ethnic food distribution, the TRS Group run a leading cash and carry operation in London. There are two warehouses; Southall in West London and Leyton in North London. The Cash & Carry business turnover for 2006 was £42 million with an average 4.6% margin resulting in a £1.89 million profit before tax. The TRS International Foods business retains a margin of 3.69% profit on a turnover for £50 million for 2006 according published accounts.

A firm commitment to quality, a willingness to travel the world in search of authentic products and a close family connection, are all virtues laid down by the founder. These philosophies continue and are carried forward in the day-to-day management of the business by Mr T.R. Suterwalla's five sons Iqbal, Siraj, Fakhruddin, Hatim and Mansoor who manage all corporate affairs for the company.

TR Suterwalla Group
Southbridge Way, The Green, Southall , Middlesex UB2 4AX UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 8843 5400 - Fax: +44 (0)20 8574 1716 and +44 (0)20 8574 5254, e: mail@trs.co.uk - Website: www.trs.co.uk

MONI VARMA

Moni VarmaMoni Varma (58), Chairman of Veetee Rice, grew up in the former Federation Rhodesia & Nysaland, in the area that later became Malawi. He is the youngest of eight children born to Indian parents, both from business families. After completing his schooling, Moni headed to India to continue his studies, but returned to Malawi soon after and started his professional life as a salesman for a printing firm.

Shortly afterwards, Moni invested £300 in a small machine to manufacture barbed wire, building the company into a success that saw it taken over by the then President of Malawi, Hastings Banda, who bought it in 1971.

In 1980, Moni met and married his wife Shoba, and with her moved to the UK. Then in 1985, Moni was approached by relatives in the food industry in India seeking rice buyers in the UK. His keen business eye quickly spotted a potentially lucrative gap in the market - at that time, the then EEC was imposing a levy of £450/tonne on imported white rice, whereas brown rice could be imported at the much lower rate of £200/tonne. It became clear that what was needed was a mill in situ in the UK. Moni founded Veetee rice - the name taken from the initials of his family name and that of Thapar, his relatives in India.

By 1986 the company was up and running. From an initial investment of £200,000 in a factory at Perivale, the business grew and by 1989 the need for larger premises became apparent. In 1990, Veetee Rice transferred its home to Rochester, Kent, where larger premises and excellent transport afforded by the River Medway presented new possibilities. The current factory has received over £20 million investment, and has the facility to carry out the cleaning, milling and packing of different rice grains, all under one roof.

Veetee is now one of the UK's largest volume suppliers of rice with a turnover of £45 million in 2006. After 20 years producing rice for supermarket own-label and under its own brand, Varma has signalled a new era for the company-branching out into microwaveable rice, pasta and curry sauces in an attempt to shift focus to the more value-added end of the market.

Veetee Foods Limited, Invicta House, Sir Thomas Longley Road, Medway City Estate, Rochester, Kent ME2 4DU. Tel. 01634 710 258, Fax. 01634 716 270, www.veetee.com

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