Food giant Henderson Group set to be north's next billion pound company

Henderson Group's sales and marketing director Paddy Doody (left) with group finance director Ron Whitten
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE family-run Henderson Group is on target to be the north's latest billion pound company.

The Mallusk-based food giant, which is made up of four indigenous divisions (wholesale, retail, property and foodservice), increased its turnover by nearly £100 million to £853 million last year, latest accounts for its parent John Henderson Holdings reveal.

Its profits before tax soared from just over £20m to £33.3m, and after various taxes were paid, its total comprehensive income for the year was £25.2 million (up from £15.6m in 2017).

And given the pattern of stellar growth in recent years, the group is likely to break the £1bn sales barrier by 2021.

Henderson Group holds the franchise for Spar, Eurospar, Vivo and VG in the north and provides a distribution service to more than 450 retailers in Northern Ireland. It has been distributing food and grocery-related products to the convenience retail sector for more than 120 years.

Over the year the group's payroll increased by nearly 200 to 3,570, which in turn pushed its annual wages bill to just shy of £75m.

The company is run by brothers Martin (57) and Geoffrey Agnew (55), and they and two other listed directors were paid a combined £1,146,001, according to filed accounts.

The company can chart a history which began in 1897 when founder John Henderson started selling butter, cheese, and eggs at premises in the Old Lodge Road in Belfast.

It became a Spar wholesale in 1961 (there are now upwards of 300 Spar stores in operation across the north) and moved to its current site at Mallusk in the 1970s.

In the last two years the group has invested £25 million in building new headquarters and distribution centre, replacing the original structures which were more than 40 years old.

The 230,000 sq ft distribution centre offers more than 5,000 ambient lines, 1,200 fresh food lines and 500 frozen food lines to the retailer.

Paddy Doody, sales & marketing director at Henderson Group, said: “We remain committed to continued investment to ensure sustained growth and that our retail brands continue to be at the forefront of convenience retail in Northern Ireland.

“We have firm plans to re-invest more than double our profit, with approximately £70 million going back in to the business, including on our current major project – the new £15 million warehouse.

“Efficiency in storage and logistics helps to maintain lower prices in store, giving us a competitive edge here in Northern Ireland. So, with our warehouse investments and expansions over the past two years, we're future proofed for 20 years or more, when it comes to storage.

“We have also opened 19 new stores in the past 12 months, including the £2.5m Spar on Sunnyside Street which is being seen as a new concept for urban convenience retail. We are investing £26m in similar openings over the next year which will drive sales and growth for our retailers across the board.”

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