Subsidiary Companies


Charmer Holdings Limited

Margetts Preserves Ltd

In their bid to increase their market share of the grocery sector J. Lyons embarked on a number of small acquisitions of long established firms. One of these was W, Symington Ltd, famous for its dehydrated soups, and on 1 April 1969 they acquired Charmer Holdings Ltd (for an undisclosed sum), owners of Margetts Ltd and Challen Bros., producers of preserves, pie fillings and fruits.

Margetts was founded by a Hackney grocer, James Margetts. His shop was close to the London fruit markets and he started to offer his customers preserves. Business rapidly developed and in 1869 he moved to Hurtle Farm in Dalston. This site was still in use in 1969 and the brand name of Hurtle Farmhouse was retained when Lyons bought the company. In 1905 the Margetts and Challen families, then bakers sundriesmen, became associated. The Challens bought preserves from Margetts to sell through the bakery trade. Later, Challen Bros. Ltd was formed. In 1927, on the retirement of James Margetts, Challen Bros. bought the business of Margetts & Co Ltd and renamed it Margetts Preserves Ltd. Margetts were the first firm in the UK to manufacture fruit pie fillings in 1948 and continued to play a major part in expanding this market up to the 1980s. They later acquired the business of Coombs Brothers of Silvertown (1950), Fowler Brothers (Preserves) Ltd of Watford (1962) and Worcestershire Packers and Growers Ltd (1962) of Tenbury Wells. The last named developed into one of the most modern canneries in the country.

As early as 1950 they pioneered the establishment of rigid standards in the packing and quality of fruit for the catering trade. Among their long time customers, who had traded with the firm for over 50 years, was the London County Council (LCC) ‚ - later the Greater London Council - hospital groups and many county authorities responsible for school meals. A large part of the business was private label and Margetts specialised in fruit products for dairy and ice-cream industries, including Lyons Maid.

In 1992, in a series of initiatives in eastern Europe, a joint venture between Margetts Foods and a Polish conglomerate, the Interpegro Group, formed Pegrmar. Based in Kielce, 100 miles south of Warsaw, it operated cold storage and processing facilities. From there fruit was exported mainly to Margetts in the UK and the Company's Sobomar joint venture in France which produced fruit preparations. Poland had long been a major source of soft fruit for the European fruit processing industry, but Margetts thought that a joint venture with a Polish company would offer better quality and quantity control. In 1994 Lyons Bakery also entered into a joint Polish venture with a privatised co-operative and formed Lyons Bakeries Polska Sp.z.o.o. Tetley too had some success in Poland with their tea.

 © Peter Bird 2004