Subsidiary Companies




Garden Isle (Fruit and Vegetables ) Ltd became an associated company of the Lyons Group on 1 April 1968. It was formed in 1967 out of the old Potato Sales Department in conjunction with Smith and Holbourne Ltd, fruit and potato processors/merchants who owned farms in Cambridgeshire. For many years Lyons had a business relationship with Smith and Holbourne who supplied Lyons with a variety of products including strawberry puree used in some ice-cream products.

Their business was the supply of prepared fruit and vegetables to the catering trade - including hospitals schools and commercial organisations - which were referred to as ''convenience foods'. One of the best selling lines were partly cook chips (French fries) which the trade referred to as oil-blanched. They were fresh, not frozen, and thus retained a better flavour when cooked. Caterers could cook them in 90 seconds which ensured a speedy meal service. Daily deliveries meant that the minimum of refrigerated storage space was required. The potatoes in their various forms were packed in polythene heat-sealed bags devised with the help of Central Laboratories.

Garden Isle were the largest producer of fresh oil-blanched chips in the UK and they used this dominant position to market its growing fruit and vegetable products. In July 1967, a new production plant, the only one of its kind in the country at that time, came on stream to produce 200 tons of raw and partly cooked chipped potatoes a week.

The Managing Director was Robert Smith, of Smith and Holbourne, and their registered office was in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. As well as Wisbech, an order and sales office was situated at 145 Hammersmith Road, London, to handle the large trade in the London area. Louis Lowenthal, who headed the former Potato Sales Department, was the Sales Director.

The factory in Wisbech occupied a five-acre site with its own deep freeze and cool rooms which were run with a staff of 70. Their main customer for diced apples was Lyons Bakery. To enable the company to meet the demand of caterers for this convenience food a fast road distribution network was established. It was claimed that potatoes could be in the fields one day and on the dinner plate the next. The railway network, which had an enviable reputation at that time, was also used to deliver to Scotland and Wales within 24 hours.

In the summer of 1968 a new Frigoscandia Flo-Freeze unit was installed to improve the keeping quality of the oil-blanched chips and to enable the company to enter the frozen chip market which ultimately dominated. Percy White, formerly of Lyons, was consultant engineer in overall charge of this installation.


© Peter Bird 2002