Yeo Valley Guest Lecture: From family farm to national brand

On Tuesday 6th March 2018, Managing Director of Yeo Valley Karl Tucker joined students on Hope Park Campus to talk about the growth of Yeo Valley from a small family farm to a £297m annual turnover national brand. 

“Despite our growth, we strive to remain dynamic and able to make quick decisions.”

Since the start of the family farm in 1972 Yeo Valley has grown to be the largest dairy processor in the UK. Karl Tucker spoke to Liverpool Hope Business School and guests about the successful, yet often complicated journey of Yeo Valley. The organisation is 100% family owned and until recently was also family run. Over recent years, the family owners have stepped away from the running of the business and Karl has transitioned to become Managing Director. This is an exciting and challenging season for the business.

“Our brand has been driven by the organic product.”

Yeo Valley’s vision is to make great British dairy the right way forever. At the heart of this mission is the topic of sustainability. Karl talked about the role that Yeo Valley has continuously had to play in balancing the organic milk market in the UK and how this impacted on their business.

Yeo Valley produces 2800 tonnes of yoghurt producing a £297m annual turnover and creating 1750 jobs. The company is split in to their own Yeo Valley products, and own brand products for supermarkets including Waitrose, M&S, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

“Working hard to take our staff on the journey.”

One of the key issues created by the level of growth that Yeo Valley has undergone is people. The dairy industry is driven by people and Yeo Valley work hard to ensure that the staff join them on the journey. For the staff in the dairies and factories, all the way to the board room to understand vision and ethos of the company is so important.

The Meade family who own Yeo Valley were also at the heart of the day-to-day life of the business with Tim Meade running the company for years. When Tim stepped down at the age of 50, it was a time of big transition for the company and the staff as Tim had created a unique, quirky and personal company culture. Now, the business is family-owned and executive-managed, spearheaded by Karl. Karl talked about how it takes a long time to instill values in such a rapidly growing workforce and this is a constant process and challenge.

“How will Brexit impact on business?”

A great student question focused on Brexit and its impact on Yeo Valley. 65% of Yeo Valley’s factory staff are immigrants. The initial hurdle was waiting for the government to confirm they will be allowed to remain here in the UK beyond Brexit. Now, it is time for them to decide whether they want to. This is one of the biggest business threats to Yeo Valley at the moment. Plus, whilst there have not been increases in their staff turnover, recruitment has become more challenging already and this is likely to be a consequence of Brexit.

It was fantastic to welcome Karl Tucker on campus and the students said “the session was really interesting and touched on a lot of what we’ve studied this year”. To stay up to date with upcoming events like this, check out the weekly e-bulletins that land in your inbox every Tuesday from the Employability Hub. 

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