W Jordan (Cereals) Ltd.

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W Jordan (Cereals) Ltd.

Holme Mills, Langford Road
Biggleswade SG18 9JY
United Kingdom
Telephone: (+44) 1767 318222
Fax: (+44) 1767 600695
Web site: http://www.jordans.co.uk

Private Company
Employees: 420
Sales: £93.2 million ($165.75 million) (2003)
NAIC: 311230 Breakfast Cereal Manufacturing

W Jordan (Cereals) Ltd. is the United Kingdom's largest independently owned breakfast cereals and snacks producers. Owned and operated by the Jordan family, under brothers William J. and David Jordan, the company has established itself as a major among the global breakfast cereal by targeting the "natural" cereals niche. The company produces a variety of additive-free cereals, including its top-selling Country Crispy and its first cereal, Original Crunchy, among others. The company produces its own line of cereal bars, and since the 2000s has added a number of other snack foods, including chips. Initially a producer of organic cereals, Jordan was nevertheless a pioneering member of the Guild of Conservation Grade Producers, which allows farmers and food producers to operate under a less stringent set of requirements than those followed by organic food manufacturers. Jordan has also joined with fellow natural foods producer Yeo Valley to launch a venture in order to place vending machines featuring its foods in Britain's schools, thus offering to students an alternative to traditional snacks and soft drinks. Jordan remained based in Biggleswade, where the Jordan family has operated flour mills since the 1800s. In 2005, the company celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Origins as a 19th Century Miller

The Jordan family were originally farmers in the North Bedfordshire region of England, with roots dating back to the 18th century and perhaps earlier. Toward the end of that century, William Jordan began renting out his draught horses to the local miller. Jordan's son, also named William, took over the operation of the family farm around the turn of the 19th century and led the family into milling itself, buying up a mill at Eaton Socon. Jordan's sons Alfred and William III continued in the milling and flour trade. Alfred went to Biggleswade, renting the Holme Mill there, while William set up a flour depot in London. Later, William Jordan III returned to Bedfordshire, where he took over operation of the Holme Mill in 1855.

The Jordan family continued to lease the Holme Mill into the 1890s. In 1893, however, the family purchased the mill outright. They then remodeled the mill, replacing the original millstones with new rolling mill equipment in 1896. Just three years later, however, the mill burned down. The family rebuilt the mill, designed from the outset as a rolling mill. In this way, the Jordans' mill became one of the most modern and efficient in the region.

William Jordan III remained in control of the Holme Mill until his death at the age of 93. (His son William IV had meanwhile set up his own mill nearby). The mill was then bought by William III's grandson, William V, who had returned from a stint as a pilot for the British Air Force during World War II. William V maintained the mill's flour operation but also extended the business in the 1950s, using the mill's waste product to launch a business producing animal feed. Jordan also built a strong business providing flour packaged under third-party and private-label brand names.

The next generation of Jordans, David and older brother William VI, who preferred to be called Bill, came of age in the 1960s. Bill Jordan initially became a professional musician, touring the United Kingdom and the United States as a drummer in a band in the late 1960s and early 1970s. While in the United States, however, Bill Jordan was introduced to the newly emerging category of health foods, most importantly the first organic cereals. One of the earliest and most popular of the new cereals was called granola, which featured toasted oats and honey.

Breakfast Cereal Producer in the 1970s

Bill Jordan gave up touring as a musician in the early 1970s in order to return to Biggleswade and launch his own granola recipe for the U.K. market. Jordan, who later oversaw the company's commercial development, was joined by brother David, who became responsible for leading the group's production. Together with an engineering partner, the Jordans designed their first production line, built around a used bakery oven. By 1972, the brothers had developed their own granola recipe, which they called Original Crunchy, based on all-natural ingredients. Soon after, they set out touring Britain's county fairs and food exhibitions in order to drum up customers. In the meantime, William Jordan V maintained the company's animal feed and flour business.

The early years were difficult ones for the company as the Jordans met with reluctance from the U.K. retail sector to accept the new type of cereal. Slowly, however, the company managed to win over a growing number of customers. Jordan was aided by the increasing awareness among British consumers of nutrition, health, and environmental issues. By 1980, the company had managed to place its cereals on the shelves of a number of the United Kingdom's small but growing network of health food stores.

The company incorporated in 1981 as W Jordan (Cereals) Ltd. By then, Jordan had launched its breakthrough product, the Original Crunchy Bar, presenting the company's granola recipe in a cereal bar format. Introduced in 1980, this product paved the way for the company's acceptance by the United Kingdom's mainstream grocers. Supermarket group Waitrose Ltd., one of the country's largest, became the first in the mainstream retailers sector to place Jordan products on its shelves.

Strong sales of the Jordan brand in the Waitrose network provided the company with the calling card it needed to win shelf space among Britain's other retailers, especially market leaders such as Teisco and Sainsbury. Jordan capitalized on its popularity, rolling out a wider range of products. Among these, the company extended its breakfast cereals range with new cereals and recipes, including muesli, as well as its own line of Jordan brand flour. Toward the end of the 1980s, Jordan made its first effort to move into the snack food category, launching a bagged snack called Oatsters.

In the mid-1980s, Jordan backed the formation of a new control body, the Guild of Conservation Food Producers, which established less restrictive farming practices than those required for the organic foods label. Part of the company's motivation for this was to make production easier for its producer farmers. Under the Conservation Grade label, land was no longer required to lay fallow for a three-year period, and certain classes of biodegradable fertilizers and pesticides were permitted. The Guild of Conservation Food Producers eventually attracted some 250 farmers as well as about 25 food manufacturers.

International Success in the 1990s

Sales of the Original Crunchy bar continued strongly through the decade. However, Jordan lost its leadership spot in the category to the marketing might of Mars and Quaker Oats, which launched their own cereal bars. By the early 1990s, Jordan's share of the U.K. cereals market was on the decline. In response, the company launched a multi-million pound advertising campaign. The company also developed a number of new recipes to appeal to developing consumer tastes, adding the Frusli brand, as well as a new cereal featuring freeze-dried strawberries, Country Crisp, introduced in 1991. That cereal provided Jordan with a new bestselling product. Country Crisp remained the company's largest-selling cereal into the mid-2000s.

Having established itself as a leading national brand, Jordan began a drive to transform its name into an international cereals brand. The company moved onto the European continent, then launched its cereals in the United States. As part of its drive to become an international brand, Jordan displayed a certain flexibility in order to appeal to local preferences. An example of this was the company's entry in France, which it began by producing cereals featuring bittersweet dark chocolate, the chocolate variety preferred by French consumers. This flexibility paid off for the company. By the mid-2000s, France had become the company's largest export market, accounting for more than half of the company's foreign sales.

Jordan continued rolling out new recipes into the late 1990s and early 2000s. The company made a new attempt to crack the snack food market with the launch of a new line of Oven Crisped Chips in 2000. This line, which featured flavors such as Sun-dried Tomato and Sour Cream and Chives, offered a lowfat alternative to traditional potato chips.

Company Perspectives:

Our Philosophy: There is increasing government and public interest in the link between nutrition and health, and a growing desire to build healthier lifestyles through better eating habits. We believed in healthy, natural foods long before the current UK health debate began. To this day, we are committed to producing the best tasting natural food. We use many whole-grain cereals and our unique expertise in blending ingredients to create great tasting food that is naturally good for you. Natural farming. We work with farmers to protect the environment for wildlife. Our experience with organically sourced ingredients goes back to 1972 and we were founder members of The Guild of Conservation Grade Producers. Healthy balanced lifestyles. We believe that eating a good breakfast and regular meals, when combined with an active lifestyle, is the recipe for well-being and good health, rather than faddy diets.

New Products for the 21st Century

Concerns over British nutritional habits, along with the growing problem of obesity in the United Kingdom, offered Jordan a new opportunity in the early 2000s. The presence of vending machines stocked with snack foods and soft drinks in the country's school system came under intense criticism as efforts got underway to change the country's eating habits. In 2002, Jordan teamed up with another natural foods producer, Yeo Valley, to launch a new class of vending machine featuring healthier food choices, including Jordan's own snack foods. As part of that effort, the two companies formed the joint venture The Organic and Natural Food Company. Branded as the Green Machine, the joint venture began testing its first vending machines, which also featured organic fruit juices, in early 2002. By 2003, the company had placed more than 100 Green Machines in the country's schools. The success of the concept led the company to decide to roll out the vending machine to the general market starting in 2003.

The Jordans backed their company's development into an international brand by hiring an increasing number of non-family members, building a professional management team. The company continued this process in 2002 when both Bill and David Jordan, who had been serving as joint managing directors, moved into the chairman and vice-chairman positions, respectively. In their place, the company named Edward Olphin, formerly the company's business development director, and Rob Hitchins, who had been finance director, as new joint managing directors.

Jordan grew quickly into the mid-2000s, encouraging the company to launch a £20 million ($35 million) expansion effort in 2004. A centerpiece of the investment program was the construction of a new 63,000-square-foot warehouse and a distribution center in Biggsleswade, slated for completion before the end of 2005.

The new facility was designed to provide a home for a number of successful new products, including a new line of Frusli Bar varieties launched in 2002. In 2004, the company debuted a new line of cereal bars, the Luxury Bars, as well as low-fat muesli, Special Fruit Muesli.

By 2005, Jordan had successfully exported its products to nearly 25 countries worldwide, including Europe and the United States, as well as a number of Asian and Middle East markets. International sales by then represented some 24 percent of the group's total sales, which neared £95 million at mid-decade. In recognition of the group's contribution to the United King-dom's organic foods market, the company won a Queen's Award in 2003. This was followed by the award of an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) to Bill Jordan himself in early 2005. One of the United Kingdom's most popular cereals companies, Jordan also remained among the most successful independent concerns in its market sector.

Principal Subsidiaries

The Organic and Natural Food Company (50%).

Key Dates:

William Jordan acquires a lease to Holmes Mill in Biggleswade, England.
Jordan purchases Holmes Mill, replacing the original millstones with new rolling mill equipment.
Bill and David Jordan develop a granola cereal recipe, called Original Crunchy, and launch its production using a secondhand bakers oven.
Original Crunchy Bar is launched.
Supermarket group Waitrose agrees to stock Jordans cereals; the company incorporates as W Jordan (Cereals) Ltd.
Jordans becomes a founding member of the Guild for Conservation Food Producers, establishing the Conservation Grade label.
The best-selling Country Crisp cereal is introduced; the company begins international sales operations and makes its first attempt to enter the snack food category with the launch of Oatsters.
Oven-Crisped Chips are launched as part of a re-entry into the snack food market.
The Organic and Natural Food Company is created as a joint venture with Yeo Valley in order to introduce Green Machine vending machines.
Construction begins on a 63,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility in Biggleswade.
Bill Jordan is made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Principal Competitors

Altria Group Inc.; Kraft Foods North America Inc.; General Mills Inc.; Kellogg Co.; Associated British Foods PLC; Dr. August Oetker KG; Quaker Oats Co.; Orkla ASA; Royal Numico N.V.

Further Reading

"Crunchy Bars Go Far to Earn Firm a Queen's Award," Biggleswade Chronicle, January 8, 2003.

"Cereal Company Invests 20m in Expansion Plans," Grocer, March 20, 2004, p. 14.

Forrest, Tracy, "No Junk PleaseWe're Jordans!," Super Marketing, May 1, 1992, p. 50.

Mason, Tania, "Jordans Ties with Yeo Valley to Push Health in Schools," Marketing, January 31, 2002, p. 4.

"Organic Honours," Natrual Products Online, January 31, 2005.

M.L. Cohen