Subsidiary Companies




In February 1986 Lyons acquired the ready-meal frozen food business of Chic-O-Roll Company Ltd. Specialising in ethnic foods Chic-O-Roll was started in 1972 by Emanuel Best and Roy Lee Young, who ran a Chinese restaurant in Malta. Together, after a year's preparation they began making eight Chinese dishes in a small factory in St Albans, Hertfordshire, for sale to supermarkets. Among the first dishes were Chop Suey, Sweet & Sour and Curry Chicken. All were prepared in the boil-in-the-bag method. They were sold under the brand name of Mr Chang and by the time Lyons bought the company their turnover was £5 million. The acquisition was intended to form the nucleus for a new Lyons chilled/frozen business which as the market for chilled foods continued to grow.

A few months after the acquisition, Lyons approved a £1/4 million investment programme to bring the factory up the EEC standards enabling their products to be sold in Europe. The whole factory area was air-conditioned and given a new flooring of a pale yellow plastic material which was not only hygienic and easy to keep clean but was easy on the feet of people working there. New ceilings were incorporated with the latest factory lighting and four new vegetable steamers were installed. The new facilities were opened by Peter Lilley, Member of Parliament for St Albans, at the beginning of October 1986 who unveiled a small plaque on the wall of the conference room.

During the period leading up to the factory upgrading, Chic-O-Roll launched two new ranges of its frozen convenience foods. One of the new ranges went under the general title of Bistro Menu, an up-market product aimed at people living alone or working couples too busy to prepare high quality dishes. The six dishes in the range were: Beef with Peppered Sauce; Spiced Maple Chicken; Shellfish Tagliatelli; Lamb Provencale; Beef Carbonade and Spiced Pork Casserole. Prepared in one potion packs they had no artificial additives, preservatives or colourings.

The other new range was called Kalorie Kitchen and was aimed at the growing number of consumers interested in healthier eating. The calorie count of all six dishes being around 300. They were: Prawn Creole; Vegetable Gratin; Italian Chicken; Ragout of Lamb; Lemon Chicken and Gammon in Spicy Sauce. The packaging of these lines also proclaimed no artificial additives or colourings.

As well as the launch of the new food ranges in 1988 four variations on Barbecued Spare Ribs were also launched earlier in the year.

Chic-O-Roll Ltd had a subsidiary company called Ebee Speciality Foods Ltd which acted as the sales and marketing arm. About 25% of output, which was 3,000 tonnes a year,  was for the own label market. The business had 85 staff and had cold stores as well as production facilities in the St Albans Area.

The business was sold during the disposal of Lyons' assets during the 1990s.

 © Peter Bird 2002