RIP British turkey tycoon Bernard Matthews

Bernard Matthews set up his fledgling turkey business back in 1950. He started out with 20 eggs and an incubator, rearing the birds in his spare time. By 1955, business had taken off and he had packed in his day job selling insurance to set up a turkey rearing and processing facility in Great Witchingham Hall near Norwich. By 1959, Bernard Matthews had sold over 50,000 birds.

Last year the company produced over seven million turkeys. To give you an idea of scale, just under 100 birds are slaughtered every minute at the Bernard Matthews factory.

Of course, the business has seen its fair share of controversy. In 2004, Jamie Oliver launched a scathing attack on the Bernard Matthews 'Turkey Twizzler' range. The fall-out from the campaign was considerable, with sales of the line slumping. And the brand came under fire once again only two years later when two employees were called to a magistrate's hearing for playing baseball with live birds.

But the readily available, cheap turkey meat still appealed to it's core market of cash-strapped consumers. Turnover at the firm stands at over £330m.

Bernard Matthews CEO Noel Bartram has expressed "great sorrow" at Matthews' death. "Rarely has any business been as synonymous with the hard work and values of one man," he says. "It was Bernard Matthews who grew and developed this company through his entrepreneurial spirit, and clear focus.

"From simple beginnings, with an initial investment of just £2.50 60 years ago, Bernard Matthews was responsible for taking the business from 20 turkey eggs and a second-hand paraffin incubator to a successful and thriving multimillion pound company. He is the man who effectively put turkey on the plates of everyday working families and in so doing became one of the largest employers in rural East Anglia and a major supporter of the local farming community."

 

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