Bernard Matthews Ltd

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Bernard Matthews Holdings Ltd. (trading as Bernard Matthews Ltd)
Private limited company
Food products
FounderBernard Matthews
HeadquartersGreat Witchingham, Norfolk, England
Key people
Robert Burnett (Chief Executive Officer)
ProductsTurkey products
Revenue£341.4 million (12 months ended 1 July 2012)[1]
£5.3 million (12 months ended 1 July 2012)[1]
£2.0 million (12 months ended 1 July 2012)[1]
OwnerRanjit Singh Boparan
Number of employees
SubsidiariesBernard Matthews Limited
Bernard Matthews Oldenburg
SáGa Foods

Bernard Matthews Holdings Ltd., trading as Bernard Matthews Ltd, is a British farming and food products business with its headquarters in Great Witchingham, Norfolk, England, which specialises in turkey products.

Founded by Bernard Matthews in 1950, it has 56 farms throughout Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire farming nearly 7 million turkeys each year.[2] It also has poultry production operations in Germany and Hungary. The company breeds and rears both indoor and free range turkeys on its farms, and is an integrated agricultural business.


  • 1950 – Company founded by Bernard Matthews from his home with his wife, twenty turkey eggs and an incubator.[3][4]
  • 1955 – Headquarters were moved to its present location, Great Witchingham Hall near Norwich.[5][4]
  • 1960 – Bernard Matthews entered the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest turkey farmer in Europe.[6][7]
  • 1971 – The company was publicly listed.[8][9][10]
  • 1980 – The company launched its first TV commercial featuring Turkey Breast Roast, with Matthews himself introducing the famous 'Bootiful' catchphrase in his thick Norfolk accent.[11][4]
  • 2000 – Bernard Matthews successfully fought off a take-over bid from US food giant Sara Lee.[12]
  • 2001 – The company was bought back by the Matthews family and taken private again.[13][9][10]
  • 2006 – Two contract workers were convicted of animal cruelty for playing 'baseball' with live turkeys.[14]
  • 2007 – The company's farm in Holton suffers an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza.[15]
  • 2007 – The company's factory B plant closes and staff moved to A plant causing many to leave or be relocated at its parent plant up the road.
  • 2008 – In July, the company re-branded from Bernard Matthews Foods to Bernard Matthews Farms and stated that all its turkey products would be made with British turkey from its own farms.[16] The company also unveiled a plan to reposition the company comprising three key elements: refocusing on British Turkey farming and production, making products that claim to better meet the needs of consumers today, and championing British agriculture.[17][18]
  • 2010 – In January, Bernard Matthews resigned from the post of Chairman, coinciding with his 80th Birthday.[19][20]
  • 2010 – In April, Bernard Matthews began a new advertising campaign, bringing back its 'Bootiful' catchphrase that was previously used between 1980 and 2007.[21]
  • 2010 – 25 November, the founder, Bernard Matthews, dies.[20]
  • 2013 – September, business is bought out by turnaround experts, Rutland Partners.[22][23]
  • 2016 - In September the company was sold to an investment company of Ranjit Singh Boparan for £87.5 million [24]


Bernard Matthews has three main operating companies: the United Kingdom-based Bernard Matthews Limited, the Germany-based Bernard Matthews Oldenburg, and the Hungary-based SáGa Foods.[1]

Bernard Matthews Limited is based in the East of England and produces a range of fresh, cooked and frozen turkey products which it sells across the UK.[1] It employs around 2,200 staff and farms around 7 million turkeys per annum.[1] It has 56 turkey farms and two production sites located in Norfolk and Suffolk. Bernard Matthews Limited is Assured Food Standards (Red Tractor) accredited[25] and its production sites have ISO 14001 accreditation.[citation needed] Jeff Halliwell has been Managing Director of Bernard Matthews Limited since June 2009.[26]

Bernard Matthews Oldenburg is based in the north of Germany and employs around 130 staff.[1] It produces a range of fresh, cooked and frozen poultry products which it sells across Germany and northern Europe.[1]

SáGa Foods is based in northwest Hungary and employs around 800 staff.[1] It produces a range of poultry products which it sells across Central Europe.[1]


The company produces a range of cooked, fresh and frozen British turkey, including products such as oven-ready whole birds, joints, cooked re-formed meats, and meal accompaniments, which accounts for over 90% of the business. Bernard Matthews also produces chicken products which are made with meat sourced from partners in South America.

Bernard Matthews Farms produces turkey for leading UK grocery supermarket chains for use under their own retail brands, and also for businesses supplying the out-of-home foodservice market.

Under the "Golden Norfolk Turkey" brand, Bernard Matthews Farms provides a frozen turkey range including whole birds in a variety of sizes, plus crowns and joints, basted and stuffed. New products under the Farms brand introduced in 2009 included several new seasonings, and an apricot and date stuffing.[27]


Turkey Twizzlers[edit]

One of Bernard Matthews' formed-meat products, 'Turkey Twizzlers', containing 34% of turkey,[28] became synonymous with cheap food for kids.[29][30] They became a subject of debate in January 2005, when they were singled out for particular criticism by the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in his television series Jamie's School Dinners. The product became an emblem of the mass-produced processed food that Oliver wanted to remove from school meals. In the wake of the programme, several major catering organisations announced that they would no longer serve Turkey Twizzlers in schools.[31][32] Bernard Matthews discontinued the product in 2005. Although the publicity increased consumption for a period,[33] and Bernard Matthews' ceased the production of the product to avoid any further criticism and negative press coverage.

Animal welfare[edit]

On 7 September 2006, two contract workers were convicted of animal cruelty after being covertly filmed by a member of staff from Hillside Animal Sanctuary, playing 'baseball' with live turkeys. The two men were sentenced to a 200-hour community service which was later criticised as being 'derisory' by some animal welfare organisations.[14][34] Palmer's and Allan's defence lawyer, Simon Nicholls, stated that their actions were part of a ‘culture’ at the Norfolk plant and, describing the conditions in the unit as "appalling", said: "You can see why people move to an organic, more open type of farming." [35] An RSPCA inspector said it was the worst case of cruelty to farm animals of which he had heard.[36] A vet, after seeing the footage, said it was the ‘most hideous and blatant’ abuse he had seen in 25 years.[37] In response, the company took out a newspaper advertisement saying that the men concerned were sub-contractors, and that none of its employees abused livestock.[34] A spokesman stated that they were committed to the "highest standards" of animal welfare.[38]

Avian flu outbreak[edit]

Map of the zones during the outbreak.

The 2007 Bernard Matthews H5N1 outbreak was an occurrence of avian flu in England that began on 30 January 2007. The infection was caused by the H5N1 subtype of the Influenza A virus and occurred at one of Bernard Matthews' farms in Holton, Suffolk. A range of precautions were instituted including a large cull of turkeys, the imposition of segregation zones, and a disinfection programme for the plant.

It emerged in a highly critical report from Defra that there was a series of biosecurity failings at the Holton plant, some of which had been drawn to the company's attention in the past.[39]

Though the cause of the outbreak has not been determined, Bernard Matthews regularly transported turkeys and turkey products between the UK and its plant in Hungary, and the H5N1 bird flu strains found in Hungary and Britain were effectively genetically identical.[40]

Consequences of the outbreak included bans by a number of countries on the importation of poultry from Britain, a sharp fall in sales of Bernard Matthews products resulting in workers being laid off and a collapse in confidence in the brand.[41]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Results for the 12 months ended 1 July 2012" (PDF). Bernard Matthews Farms. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  2. ^ "Company history". Bernard Matthews. Archived from the original on 6 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  3. ^ Kennedy, Carol (2003). From Dynasties to Dotcoms : The Rise, Fall and Reinvention of British Business in the Past 100 Years. London: Kogan Page Ltd.
  4. ^ a b c Storey, Neil R. (2011-11-01). "Norfolk at Work: Six Notable Norfolk Businesses". The Little Book of Norfolk. History Press. ISBN 9780752494609.
  5. ^ "Company history: The 50s". Bernard Matthews.
  6. ^ "Company history: The 60s". Bernard Matthews.
  7. ^ "Bernard Matthews: Is he stuffed?". The Independent. 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  8. ^ "Company history: The 70s". Bernard Matthews.
  9. ^ a b "Subscribe to read". Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  10. ^ a b "BBC NEWS | Business | Profile: Bernard Matthews". Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  11. ^ "Company history: The 80s". Bernard Matthews.
  12. ^ "Sara Lee pulls out of Bernard Matthews bidding".
  13. ^ "Company history: The 00s". Bernard Matthews.
  14. ^ a b "Inquiry call after turkey cruelty". BBC News. 2006-09-07. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  15. ^ Vidal, John; Lewis, Paul (2007-02-05). "Mystery deepens over cause of Suffolk bird flu outbreak". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  16. ^ "Norfolk turkey boss Bernard Matthews, 80, retires". BBC News. 24 January 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2010.
  17. ^ "Financial Times Article". Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  18. ^ "Financial Times Article". Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  19. ^ "Bernard Trevor Matthews from Norwich, Norfolk work as Chairman, Company Director". Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  20. ^ a b "Turkey tycoon Bernard Matthews dies". BBC News. 2010-11-26. Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  21. ^ Mark Sweney (16 April 2010). "Bernard Matthews brings back 'bootiful'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  22. ^ "Subscribe to read". Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  23. ^ "Private equity owners of Bernard Matthews to sell stake - Farmers Weekly". Farmers Weekly. 2016-07-01. Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "". Red Tractor. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  26. ^ "The Grocer Magazine". Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  27. ^ "The Grocer. Bernard Matthews new products". Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  28. ^ "What's in a Turkey Twizzler". the Guardian. 2005-03-23. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  29. ^ Woodward, Will (2004-12-14). "Banned in Scotland but good enough for English children". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  30. ^ Tickle, Louise (2016-09-13). "Will small schools go back to the Turkey Twizzler?". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  31. ^ Revill, Jo (2005-03-06). "Victory for Jamie in school meal war". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  32. ^ "Turkey Twizzler sales biting back". BBC News Online. 2005-03-23. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  33. ^ Plunkett, John (2005-03-23). "Children keep gobbling Turkey Twizzlers". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  34. ^ a b "Turkey firm advert condemns abuse". BBC News. 2006-09-15. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  35. ^ "Inquiry call after turkey cruelty". BBC News. 2006-09-07. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  36. ^ "Bernard Matthews staff played 'baseball' with live turkeys".
  37. ^ "Workers charged".
  38. ^ "Turkey workers played 'baseball' with birds". The Guardian. 7 September 2006. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  39. ^ "Bernard Matthews faces prosecution for failures at bird flu plant", Philippe Naughton, Times Online, 16 February 2007
  40. ^ "Tests confirm bird flu link to Hungary", John Vidal, The Guardian, 14 February 2007
  41. ^ "Bernard Matthews loses sales", Daily Telegraph, 14 February 2007

External links[edit]