The Vestey Group (Vestey Group Ltd) (formerly Vestey Brothers) is a privately owned UK group of companies, comprised of an international food product business (that includes meats, dairy products, frozen vegetables,bakery products, food services and trading) and significant cattle ranching and sugar cane farming interests in Brazil and Venezuela.
Sir (later Baron) William Vestey established the Vestey empire in 1897 from a family butchery business in Liverpool. They were a pioneer of refrigeration, opening a cold store in London in 1895.
The Vestey brothers were initially sent to South America in an attempt to make their fortune because the economy there was booming. They started by buying game birds and storing them in the cold stores of American companies before shipping them to Liverpool.
These early activities soon developed into importing beef and beef products into the UK, which in turn led to them owning cattle ranches in Brazil, Venezuela and Australia and their own meat processing factories in Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand and Australia(in 1914 Vestey Brothers built a meat processing works at Bullocky Point, Darwin, Australia). In 1915 the brothers moved to Buenos Aires to avoid paying income tax in the UK.
Vestey Brothers also developed a business importing eggs from China, and during World War II they were a major importer of powdered egg.
It is said that by 1930 Vesteys had 30,000 employees world wide and a net value of 300,000 pounds.
To ship the meat back to the UK the Vesteys created their own shipping company, the Blue Star Line, registered on July 28 1911 in London and Liverpool with a capital of 100,000 pounds. In fact, they purchased their first two ships (Pakeha renamed Broderick, and Rangatira renamed Brodmore) in 1909.
The line owned a number of refrigerated ships (Reefers), and business later expanded to countries as far apart as Egypt and China, carrying passengers in addition to various foodstuffs. Blue Star was finally sold to P&O Nedlloyd for 60,000,000 GBP in 1998, although most of the refrigerated ships were retained by Vestey's Albion Reefers subsidiary, which later merged with Hamburg Sud to form Star Reefers, finally sold off in July 2001.
In the course of their expansion, Vestey bought a number of other companies, acquiring Oxo and London's Oxo Tower through the purchase of the Liebig Extract of Meat Company.
In the middle of the 20th century, Vestey companies dominated the UK wholesale and retail meat trade, selling refrigerated and canned meats, as well as leather and other by-products. Having saved cash reserves for the purpose, they entered into a price war with the US owned importers to largely drive them from the UK market. Vestey developed the country-wide Dewhurst chain of butchers shops, which was eventually disbanded in 1995 in the face of increasing competition from the supermarket chains. Dewhurst were the first to introduce the innovation of glass windows on butcher's shops - previously meat had been exposed to the elements and pollution.
After a period of major restructuring in the late 1990s, Vestey Group today consists of Angliss Internationaland (http://www.angliss-international.com) significant cattle ranching and sugar cane farming interests in Brazil and Venezuela.
Lord (Sam) Vestey, the great grandson of 1st Lord Vestey, is the current head of the family and Chairman of the Group. He owns a 6,000 acre (2,400 hectare) estate at Stowell Park, Gloucestershire, valued at 15,000,000 GBP. (Guardian, March 12, 2000).
The Vesteys endowed the Vestey Professorship of Food Safety and Veterinary Public Health at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.
- Angliss International (http://www.angliss-international.com)
- Classic Fine Foods
- Agropecuraris Flora
- The Blue Star Line was sold to P&O Nedlloyd for 60,000,000 GBP in 1998.
- Blue Star Ship Management Ltd
- Dewhurst butchers - disbanded 1995
- Union Cold Storage Company