Four successful Essex heritage brands
Continuing our series on heritage brands, we will be looking at Essex based businesses which have stood the test of time. These four businesses have established a loyal customer base, a long history of positive testimonials, and have been in operation for decades. Over the years, these Essex heritage brands have had to adapt and grow with the times, but are still able to attract faithful customers and enjoy long lasting success.
Wilkin & Sons
Wilkin & Sons has undoubtedly stood the test of time since its opening in 1885. As is often the case with heritage brands, there is a long-running family involvement. Tiptree Jam, coming under Wilkin & Sons, has seen the Wilkin family farming on the land since the 1700s. The Wilkin family are still involved with the business today, with Peter Wilkin the great-grandson of founder Arthur Charles Wilkin being on the board of directors.
Since business began, Tiptree has being one of the fastest-growing villages in the UK, making for an ever changing backdrop. However, Wilkin & Sons expanded as far as Dagenham and Suffolk, leading to them owning 800 acres of land by 1906. However, this did not come without struggles along the way. One such case saw Mr. Wilkin having to sell a horse in order to pay the men’s wages. Once the First World War came, business hit a standstill after facing a shortage of supplies and subsequent unemployment.
Fortunately, following World War One, Wilkin & Sons have seen their business grow. Despite facing challenges such as the rise and fall of the traditional market, Wilkin & Sons have managed to stay afloat after all this time and have grown to be an integral part of the community. This has become apparent as over the years, the business has welcomed royalty including Queen Elizabeth II in 2010, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex in 2020.
Furthermore, Wilkin & Sons now has the Tiptree Museum, highlighting years of the preserves industry. With more than 125 years in operation, Wilkin & Sons has become deeply rooted in local history and has continued to stand the test of time.
KellyBronze isn't as historical as other Essex heritage brands, but it has made a mark on the community. In 1971, Founder, Derek Kelly broke away from the corporate world to start his turkey family business in Danbury. The business stemmed from the belief that customers would be willing to pay more for a higher quality product. This philosophy paid off as KellyBronze began winning shows across the country by 1979. However, the business wasn’t all smooth sailing, as the start of the 1980’s saw the Christmas turkey market crash. Fortunately, by the end of the decade business was picking up with KellyBronze establishing a mark for free-range turkeys.
Since the business’s beginning, KellyBronze has welcomed testimonials from celebrities including Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson. They have also been awarded by royals, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. The KellyBronze also became the first turkey to receive three gold stars in the Great Taste Awards. They went on to win for the best free range turkeys in the UK for 8 years running at the British Turkey Awards.
Since starting from humble beginnings, KellyBronze has bloomed and become a token favourite amongst locals and celebrities alike. Being 50 years since the business was formed, KellyBronze was founded on expertise and has since made a mark on the industry.
Although the business has expanded massively, Britvic originally stemmed from a chemist creating homemade soft drinks in Chelmsford in the 1800s. It wasn’t until 1938 that James MacPherson & Co Ltd took on the company with a vision to introduce soft drinks as a source of vitamins. Despite being acquired by and evolved by several companies over the years, the premise has been the same - providing flavourful and dynamic soft drinks. Britvic built their Chelmsford factory in 1954 and went on to acquire various drink brands including Robinsons, Tango and J2O.
Impressively, at the peak of its production in 2012, Britvic bottled 13 million drinks in the year. They illustrate how a brand can start as a small independent business and eventually thrive into a worldwide award-winning corporation. Sadly, the head office moved from Chelmsford to Hemel Hempstead in 2012, followed by the Chelmsford factory closing in 2014.
Despite the age of the company, Britvic has evolved with the times to incorporate sustainability pledges into their brand. They have also taken note of trends by introducing low calorie ingredients into their produce. A modern and adaptable approach to their products has maintained a loyal customer base and appealed to numerous new consumers.
Britvic is not a heritage business in the traditional way. With its roots stemming back to the Victorian period, the company has become a producer of global everyday favourite brands.
Since its formation in 1882, Maldon Salt has become a household name. Despite being made with the same traditional methods, Maldon Salt has established itself as a timeless brand. The family ties are central to the produce with four generations of the Osborne family having been behind the business since it began operations.
The brand has branched out to be sold in supermarket retailers including Tescos, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Asda. This highlights not just a personal value within Essex, but also nationally. Despite its far reaching retailers, the brand is packed full of local pride and generations' worth of salt harvesting expertise.
Although they have always used traditional crafting methods, Maldon Salt has been able to adapt to the times. The business prides itself for its corporate social responsibility, with the goal being to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2025. The product offering has also expanded and flourished over the years to include salt sachets, smoked salt and salt mills. Furthermore, 2010 marked the year when Maldon Salt welcomed Queen Elizabeth on a visit, resulting in a Royal Warrant two years later for purveyors of sea salt.
Today, Steve Osborne is at the forefront of the business, following in the footsteps of his father Clive, grandfather Cyril and great grand father James. The family and Maldon ties are at the core of the brand, with the product hardly changing. The brand itself has evolved with the times whilst still keeping the loyal customer base coming back.
In the modern day, there is pressure on brands to be conscious, accountable and reliable. These four Essex heritage brands have flourished and overcome various hurdles to stand the test of time. Heritage businesses have to strike a balance with the modern day consumer, current demands and their long standing customers.