• James and Adrian Potter
  • Yorkshire Farmhouse Eggs, Thirsk and East Sussex

Brothers James and Adrian Potter have tripled the size of their business in two years, moving from being a regional egg producer in northern England to a national supplier selling through 500 stores and with an annual turnover of £4m.

Two years ago, the family managed Yorkshire Farmhouse Eggs at Catton, near Thirsk. But they decided to buy Hoads Farm near Sedlescombe in East Sussex, as they saw a chance to develop new markets in London and the south east.

Taking on an egg farm nearly 300 miles away brings its own unique technical challenges. For example, how do you manage two flocks at the either end of the country? The brothers overcame this by recruiting a reliable team of experienced staff at Hoads Farm while operating all administrative business tasks from their unit in Catton, North Yorkshire.

But not content with just buying another business, the brothers have improved and expanded the Hoads Farm brand.

Egg packaging was redesigned with Adrian’s face on the Hoads Farm brand in the south, while back at home, eggs are branded as James Potter Yorkshire Farmhouse Eggs with his face.

This clever marketing featuring the brothers’ images allows instant recognition of the link between the brands.

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“We have tripled the output from Hoads Farm, taking it from 30 stores in both Tesco and Sainsbury’s to up to 192. The Hoads brand has sold so well, it is now in Tesco stores from the south right up to North Yorkshire,” says Adrian.

Expansion and growth has meant careful monitoring to maintain excellence. That means managing all stages of the operation – production right through to packing – before it goes to the supermarkets.

“We check the ordering systems from the supermarkets and increase orders where needed,” says James.

“Being our size you can’t oversupply yourself, you have to find the right balance,” adds Adrian.

The brothers adopt a hand-on approach with store managers. “We walk around the stores and speak to the store managers directly. We show them our sales figures from other stores, demonstrating that our brand has outsold others.

“As a result, they will often trial our eggs to see how they sell,” says Adrian.

“It can really help. Sometimes they are not interested unless you have an appointment to see them,” adds James.

But they haven’t just concentrated on growth and expansion the brothers have also focused on green issues. Over the past few years, they have planted more than 2000 trees around the perimeter of each field, to encourage layers to range in more natural surroundings.

All production is within a 30-mile radius of both the Catton and Sedlescombe packing plants. This minimises the company’s food miles and cuts transport costs, adding to the businesses’ competitiveness with other national egg suppliers.

Always one step ahead of competitors, the brothers launched The Yorkshire Food and Drink Hub with Asda in 2007, selling locally sourced products with regional association.

Looking ahead, further expansion plans will see a new grader at the Catton site and a £500,000 purpose-built packing station at Hoads Farm.

For the future, the brothers want to concentrate on further expansion. “We would like to grow while the opportunities are there, but we don’t necessarily want to be the biggest. Instead, we want to be the best.”

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Farm facts

  • Two sites – Catton and Hoads Farm
  • Catton site – 170,000 free-range laying hens, plus 27,000 organic free range
  • Hoads Farm site – 100,000 layers
  • A total of 297,000 laying hens
  • 30 contract producers
  • 30 staff
  • Supplies 500 stores around the UK, covering the four main retail chains
  • 30% of core sales from Sainsbury’s and Tesco
  • 100% growth in the past 12 months

What the judges liked

  • Successfully broken into new markets
  • Huge potential for future growth
  • Innovative and original thinking
  • Hands-on approach
  • Ambition and drive