Greencore Food Factory
The history of this site begins in 1878 when Charles & Veronica Prideaux moved to Motcombe, North Dorset to set up a business selling eggs & butter. Business was very good for them, and they had soon opened factories in both Stalbridge (1892) and Shillingstone (1897). Three years later, they purchased a creamery on the current site of the Greencore Food Factory in Evercreech. In 1914, C & G Prideaux Ltd was incorporated, with the shares being held by the family. During World War I they managed to land several important government contracts and provided dried milk powder under the brand name “Dorsella” to the troops abroad and to hospitals. During the war their turnover was roughly a million pounds per year. After this the history of the site becomes a bit hazy but it seems that after 1959 it belonged to Unigate Plc, a British food manufactured created in 1959 from the merger of the UK’s largest dairy products company United Dairies and Cow & Gate.
In 1977, dairyman John Clement became the CEO and chairman of Unigate. Due to declining business in the dairy industry, he sold 75% of dairy manufacturing businesses to the Milk Marketing Board for £87 million, and began to diversify by purchasing various food processing companies, restaurants, and a couple of car/motor businesses. However, this diversification did not seem to pay off, and in the late 1980s the project was reversed. Although Unigate remained the UK’s largest milk provider, dairy products only made one third of group turnover.
As losses mounted, and debt built up, Unigate started to focus on food & distribution, whilst selling off non-core and unprofitable parts of the business. In May 1998, the company attempted an unsuccessful £1.59 billion takeover of diversified conglomerate Hillsdown Holdings (now Premier Food). In February 1999 the Unigate acquires Fisher Quality Foods, a UK supplier of sauces, dressings, and marinades, from the Albert Fisher Group for a little over £40 million. In the meantime, Hillsdown under shareholder pressure had begun a break-up, spinning off its chilled convenience food subsidiary as Terranova. In March 1999, Unigate initiated a hostile £228.5 million takeover bid for Terranova, which was accepted after the bid was raised to £274 million.
In 2000, the milk and cheese division was sold to Dairy Crest, and on completion of the sale, Unigate changed their name to Uniq. Over the next 10 years, various parts of the business were sold to focus on the convenience foods market, and the factory was retrofitted in order to accommodate this transition.
Due to a rationalisation of the desert production, the Grencore Factory in Evercreech was earmarked for closure in 2006, with 460 jobs on the line. However, the decision to close the plant was overturned in 2006. From this point, the Evercreech site became one of the company’s most successful plants, manufacturing premium deserts and cottage cheese mainly for Marks & Spencer. Under Greencore who purchased Uniq for £113 million in 2011 the factory in Evercreech received awards from M&S business audits, manufacturing over 100 million cakes and deserts a year
Although Greencore’s profits appeared to rise after the acquisition, the food manufacturer announced that the 126 year old factory was in need of repair, which was going to be financially unsustainable and they decided to close the factory. Production at the Greencore stopped in April 2018 and today the factory is pretty much an empty shell.