Associated British Foods

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Associated British Foods plc
FormerlyGeorge Weston Holdings plc (1934–1994)[1]
Company typePublic
FTSE 100 Component
Founded20 October 1935; 88 years ago (1935-10-20)
FounderW. Garfield Weston
HeadquartersLondon, England, UK
Area served
Key people
RevenueIncrease £19.750 billion (2023)[2]
Increase £1.383 billion (2023)[2]
Increase £1.068 billion (2023)[2]
Total assetsDecrease £18.844 billion (2023)[2]
Total equityDecrease £11.193 billion (2023)[2]
OwnerWittington Investments (54.5%)
Number of employees
133,000 (2024)[3]

Associated British Foods plc (ABF) is a British multinational food processing and retailing company headquartered in London, England.

Its ingredients division is the world's second-largest producer of both sugar and baker's yeast and a major producer of other ingredients including emulsifiers, enzymes and lactose.[4] Its grocery division is a major manufacturer of both branded and private label grocery products and includes the brands Mazola, Ovaltine, Ryvita, Jordans, Kingsmill and Twinings.[4] Its retail division, Primark, has some 384 stores across several countries, predominantly Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, and the UK.[2] ACH Food Companies is an American subsidiary.

Associated British Foods is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.


20th century[edit]

The company was founded by Canadian W. Garfield Weston in 1935, initially as Food Investments Limited, with the name changing to Allied Bakeries Limited a month later.[5]

Between 1935 and 1956, ten national and regional bakery companies were acquired by Allied, including Barrett and Pomeroy, and London and Provincial Bakeries. The largest acquisition at this time was in 1955 when Allied bought the British operations of the Aerated Bread Company, founded in 1862. This acquisition included both the bakery business and the chain of cafeterias, the A.B.C. Tearooms.[6] Allied paid $8.1 million for A.B.C. At that time, Allied had a large share of the UK baked goods market. Allied's market share prior to acquiring A.B.C. was 10% of all UK bread production and the sale of 20 million biscuits per day. Allied's sales the year prior were $154 million with profits of $12.6 million in current dollars.[7] With the acquisition of A.B.C., Allied almost doubled its share of the UK's bread market by the end of the decade.[8] In December 1954 they purchased from Howardsgate Trust the single Fine Fare Supermarket in Welwyn Garden City, the Welwyn Store grocery branches and the bakery businesses owned by the Trust.[9][10]

Allied, under its new name, adopted in 1960, of Associated British Foods, continued to run A.B.C. as a separate brand after its takeover, with a major A.B.C. bakery in Camden Town, London. This closed in 1982 and the A.B.C. name was retired.[11]

Following the death of the founder in 1978, control of the company was passed on to his son Garry, while the North American operations fell to his son Galen.[12]

The company sold Fine Fare in 1986 to the Dee Corporation, and in 1991, went on to acquire British Sugar.[13] In 1997, ABF sold its retail operations in Ireland (including Northern Ireland) to Tesco.[14] These businesses were: Quinnsworth and Crazy Prices in the Republic of Ireland and Stewarts Supermarket Limited and Crazy Prices in Northern Ireland. This sale also included the Stewarts Winebarrel off-licence chain, Lifestyle Sports & Leisure Ltd (a retail sports and leisure business), Kingsway Fresh Foods (a meat processing facility) and Daily Wrap Produce (a fruit and vegetable packaging plant).[15]

In May 1994, Greggs acquired the Bakers Oven chain from the company.[16]

Old Argo laundry starch box, photographed at Edmonds Historical Museum.

21st century[edit]

In 2000, the company sold its interests in Burton's Biscuits.[17] In 2002, it acquired the Mazola corn oil, Argo and Kingsford's cornstarch, Karo and Golden Griddle syrups, and Henri's dressing brands, along with several Canadian brands, from Unilever;[18][19] in 2004, it acquired the Tone's spice business and Fleischman yeast business from Burns Philp;[20] and in 2007, it purchased Patak's Indian food business.[21]

On 26 March 2011, Associated British Foods, and its parent company Wittington Investments, were targeted over tax avoidance by UK Uncut during anti-cuts protests.[22] The tax avoidance scheme involved moving capital between ABF/Primark and the affiliated Luxembourg entity ABF European Holdings & Co SNC by means of interest-free loans, avoiding tax of about £9.7 million per year.[23][24] The protest took the form of a mass sit-in in Fortnum & Mason.[25]

In February 2013, the firm denied "illegal and immoral" tax evasion after it was accused by an international charity of moving its profits outside Zambia to reduce its tax bill. ActionAid said Zambia Sugar, a unit of AB Foods, had made profits of $123 million since 2007, but had paid "virtually no corporate tax" in Zambia.[26]

In October 2013, the company denied being involved in unscrupulous uses of land, in an article containing reports of forced evictions by other companies.[27]



Two slices of Kingsmill bread
Ryvita crispbread


  • AB Agri Ltd
  • AB Enzymes - an ABFI Company
  • AB Sugar
  • AB Mauri, bakery ingredients
  • Abitec Corporation - an ABFI Company
  • Abitec Ltd
  • ACH Food Companies (AC HUMKO from 1995 to 2000), an American subsidiary of Associated British Foods, previously part of Kraft Foods from 1952 to 1995.
  • ACH Food México[29]
  • Allied Bakeries - a division of ABF Grain Products Ltd
  • Allied Mills
  • British Sugar
  • Frontier Agriculture (50% joint venture with Cargill)
  • George Weston Foods
  • G Costa: sauces and specialty foods
  • Illovo Sugar
  • OHLY - an ABFI Company
  • PGP International, Inc. - an ABFI Company
  • Primark – known as Penneys in the Republic of Ireland
  • SPI Pharma, Inc. - an ABFI Company
  • Stratas Foods LLC, a 50/50 joint venture between ABF's American subsidiary ACH and fellow American food corporation Archer Daniels Midland[30]
  • Wander AG
  • Westmill Foods

Board of directors[edit]

Controlling shareholder[edit]

54.5% of ABF is owned by Wittington Investments.[32] 79.2% of the share capital of Wittington Investments is owned by the Garfield Weston Foundation, which is one of the UK's largest grant-making charitable trusts, and the remainder is owned by members of the Weston family. Wittington Investments also owns Fortnum & Mason and Heal & Son. George G. Weston became chief executive of ABF on 1 April 2005, and Galen Weston, the chief executive of George Weston Ltd., is a non-executive director. Garth Weston is Regional President of AB Mauri.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Associated British Foods PLC overview - Find and update company information - GOV.UK". Companies House. 20 October 1934. Retrieved 7 August 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Annual Report and Accounts 2023" (PDF). Associated British Foods. Retrieved 11 February 2024.
  3. ^ "About us". Associated British Foods. Retrieved 11 February 2024.
  4. ^ a b "Introduction". Associated British Foods plc. Archived from the original on 22 September 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
  5. ^ "Bakers Federation". Bakers Federation. Archived from the original on 7 April 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  6. ^ Richard Evely and I. M. D. Little, Concentration in British Industry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011) p.258
  7. ^ "Barnum of Bread," Time. Monday, 14 February 1955. (Retrieved 2009-05-13.)
  8. ^ Oddy, Derek J. and Derek S. Miller. The Making of the Modern British Diet. Croom Helm. 1976, p. 27
  9. ^ Maurice De Soissons (1988). Welwyn Garden City. Publications for Companies. p. 145. ISBN 9780904928235.
  10. ^ Roger Filler (1986). A History of Welwyn Garden City. Phillimore. pp. 125–127. ISBN 9780850335903.
  11. ^ "The Early History of Sainsbury's in Camden". Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Garry Weston". The Daily Telegraph. 16 February 2002. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  13. ^ "Obituary: Garry Weston". The Independent. UK. 16 February 2002. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  14. ^ Pain, Derek (14 April 1997). "ABF's £1.5bn cash mountain provides investors with food for thought". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  15. ^ "Regulation (EEC) No 4064/89 Merger Procedure" (PDF). EU. 5 May 1997. p. 2. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  16. ^ "Greggs - history". 16 January 2010. Archived from the original on 16 January 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  17. ^ Wootliff, Benjamin (31 October 2000). "Wagon Wheels roll west as ABF sells Burton's". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 15 May 2010.[dead link]
  18. ^ "ACH Foods Company Overview". Archived from the original on 15 December 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  19. ^ "ACH Food Companies, Inc. Buys Unilever's Mazola Corn Oil and Associated Brands". 23 April 2002. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  20. ^ "Burns Philp & Co Ltd". Archived from the original on 21 October 2008. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  21. ^ "AB Foods buys curry firm Patak's" BBC News Online Tuesday, 29 May 2007
  22. ^ UK Uncut Occupy Tax Dodgers Fortnum and Mason Archived 29 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine. 26 March 2011.
  23. ^ "ABF European Holdings & Co SNC accounts 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  24. ^ "Tax Research UK article". 28 March 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  25. ^ Video: Occupation of Fortnum & Mason by UKuncut was peaceful Archived 20 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine, by Sunny Hundal. 27 March 2011.
  26. ^ Vellacott, Chris (10 February 2013). "AB Foods denies avoiding tax in Zambia Holiday". Reuters.
  27. ^ Merrill, Jamie (2 October 2013). "Oxfam accuses Coke and Pepsi of taking land from the poor". The Independent.
  28. ^ "Associated British Foods plc has acquired the Leicester-based sports nutrition company H5 Ltd, trading as High5". Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  29. ^ "ACH Food Companies - Mexico". Archived from the original on 17 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  30. ^ "Heggen takes the helm at Stratas Foods". Food Business News. 13 March 2020. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h "Associated British Foods plc - About us - Board and committees - Board of directors". Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  32. ^ Associated British Foods. "Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 April 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  33. ^ "Trustees | The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award". Retrieved 19 February 2018.

External links[edit]