I was fascinated to read about the 60th anniversary of the Premier Foods factory, known of course to older readers and traditionalists as the Batchelors factory in Kennington. I remember being told when I first visited the plant (I am a reasonably regular visitor) that the origins lay in pea production, as Ashford was ideally situated for the processing of peas.
If any of the various historians of Ashford in Kent want to elaborate on that please do. I always associate peas with East Anglia, but agriculture has changed so much in the past 60 years that I can imagine a time when Kent rivalled the flatter counties to the north.
Anyway the plant has moved on considerably in recent years, and now produces a huge range of products. One of the best business decisions taken for Ashford was the reversal of the closure proposed for the Kennington plant in 2006, when Premier bought it from Campbell’s.
This was not taken for any remotely sentimental reason. It was seen that the Ashford workforce could contribute hugely to the long-term plans for Premier, and this been proved to be emphatically right since the reprieve. In a very competitive sector, with the supermarkets proving some of the toughest customers any supplier has to deal with, Premier has fought through financial tough times because of the quality of the products.
One of my favourite visits involved tasting some of the new cake mixes Premier were experimenting with. I may not bring expertise to this process, but I bring a great deal of experience and enthusiasm. My next visit, scheduled for early December, involves tree planting, where again I will provide more eagerness than competence. But I know Premier will be doing it for a good cause, and I am delighted they are still there to celebrate.