Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Express Dairies

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Express Dairies is a subsidiary of Dairy Crest, specialising almost entirely in home deliveries of milk and other dairy products.

The company was founded by George Barham in 1864 as the Express County Milk Supply Co, named after the fact that they only used express trains to get their milk to London.

The major creamery and milk bottling plant was located just south of South Acton railway station on the North London Line. This gave easy and equal access for milk trains from both the Great Western Railway and the Southern Railway.

1969 Bought by Grand Metropolitan

1991 Bought by Northern Foods

1998 Demerged from Northern Foods and purchased a 51% controlling stake in Claymore Dairies of Scotland, for £2.2 million.

1999 February. Express Dairies acquired Star Dairies Food Service and certain assets of Star Dairies International Ltd for £3.5 million.

1999 June. The UK liquid milk operations of Glanbia were acquired for £100 million, and the share capital of Blakes Chilled Distribution was purchased in August for £3 million.

Express Dairies announced a joint venture in Northern Ireland with Golden Vale in November 2000 that created Dale Farm Dairies, although that was sold in October 2001.

2002 July. Express Dairies disposed of its UHT business and Frome creamery.

2003 Following a period of poor profitability, the business was acquired in 2003 by Arla Foods

2006 July. Bought by Dairy Crest although it still operates under the name Express Dairies.

Supermarkets

Post war the chairman's new son-in-law, American citizen and ex-US Navy sailor Patrick Galvani had been studying retailing before coming to the UK, particularly supermarkets. Galvani made a pitch to the board, which resulted in Britain's first supermarket opening in Streatham, South London in 1951 under the Premier Supermarket brand. While the average British retailer was taking £98/week, the average take at Premier was £1,000/week. The company developed an estate footprint of similar 2,500 square feet (230 m2)+ retail outlets, all under the Premier Supermarkets brand.

In 1960, in an attempt to develop a national footprint, Galvani made a pitch to the board to buy northern based Irwin's 212 stores, but they refused to back him; Jack Cohen of Tesco subsequently bought the chain. After Galvani resigned over a dispute to take Green Shield Stamps, in 1964 the chain was sold to Unilever's Mac Fisheries chain for £1million. The cash income allowed Express to develop and launch marketing for long-life milk.

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