Brothers John and William Emmett started farming together in the 1970's, expanding to grow vegetables and salads for the wholesale markets that supplied London, eventually having their own wholesale market stands. They were quick to realise that the supermarkets were where future volumes lay and embraced their supply, at first indirectly but soon with direct accounts. In the 1980's they started direct supply to Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury and Safeway; Waitrose received their orders into their Bracknell warehouse on tractors and trailers!
The product range in those early years was broad and diverse with well over twenty different products being grown; leeks and brassicas dominated their winter supply with lettuce and spinach the mainstays of the summer. Both consumers and retailers wanted more convenient and added-value products, whereas most fresh produce was marketed loose. John and William mechanised their farms and automated their pack house; leek rigs, lettuce rigs, vacuum cooling, vertical fill packing of spinach and farming in Spain all appeared in the 1990’s.
By the millennium the Emmett range had consolidated slightly with leeks and spinach being their products of repute. Although still growing a full suite of salads, this side of the business was being undermined on price and scale by bigger producers.
Colin Bailey joined the business in 1999 and as there was no obvious family succession he was encouraged to buy half the business from William in 2002 and the remainder from John in 2007. This was a simple and pragmatic deal that epitomises the Emmett family and the way they do business. Colin was only able to grasp the opportunity due to the financial backing of a close friend. The Emmetts continue to farm in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey and the next generation have diversified into property, storage and retail amongst other things.
In 2002 the vegetable business became Emmett UK Ltd making clear its intention to be a national business supplying the whole of the UK. The Thames Valley as a farming base had become tired through over-cropping. Housing prices were becoming prohibitive to the attraction of new talent and with every delivery having to use the M25 the decision was taken to move. Great land, a central location and a history of fresh produce supply made Lincolnshire the obvious choice. All the assets in Surrey were sold and a bespoke factory was built at Fosdyke that remains the centre of operations.
Today Emmett is a fully integrated farming, packaging and marketing business specialising in four core products: spinach, leeks, kale and cavolo nero. Since the turn of the century the business has more than doubled in size and now grows everything it sells. In the UK, Emmett farms across South Lincolnshire and into North Cambridgeshire. The Spanish business farms organic and conventional products too. In 2016 the Italian growing business was established to grow conventional spinach. The Fosdyke factory operates seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day - a rolling system of production, cleaning and maintenance all with directly employed staff.