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Princes Targeting Further Growth Throughout Europe United Kingdom, April 26, 13

Princes, the Liverpool-based food and drinks Goliath, is targeting further growth across Europe in a bid to boost turnover to £3bn by 2020.

The group, headquartered in the Royal Liver Building, was acquired in 1989 by Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi Corporation.

Then, its turnover stood at £200m, but its unaudited figures to March 31 this year are expected to top £1.75bn.

Acquisitions have played their part in the group’s expansion after a February 2011 £182m deal for Premier Foods’ canning operations in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, which included the Crosse & Blackwell and Fray Bentos brands.

But Ruth Simpson, corporate relations director, said the £3bn target is based on organic growth alone.

This is expected to be achieved by further investment in Princes’ expanding markets in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and, more recently, Poland, where it opened a factory three years ago producing edible oils.

In the UK Princes is the biggest seller of canned food – primarily fish, followed by meat – ahead of rival Heinz, based on an equal share of own label and branded goods.

Ms Simpson said: “We can take some of our UK success and expand on that in Europe.

“We have had a Rotterdam office since 1960, but we are looking at other geographies.

“Our focus is the areas where we are already present, like Holland and Germany, but we are experiencing rapid expansion in France and we are growing a new business in Poland.”

And she hinted that long-term growth plans could take the Liverpool group much further afield: “In future there will be ambitions for further growth, particularly into Russia and other geographies.

“We are a very ambitious business.”

The group also has a tuna processing facility in Mauritius, which could provide the stepping stone into territories such as Thailand.

Princes was founded in Liverpool in 1880 as a fish importing business. It moved into food manufacturing in 1946 and ventured into Europe in 1960.

After its acquisition in 1989 it was identified by Mitsubishi as its main vehicle for growth in Europe and over the past two decades has completed 21 mergers and acquisitions.

It employs 450 staff in its Royal Liver Building head office and more than 6,000 in total, with 11 UK production sites as well as operations in Poland and Italy.

Its family of brands includes the likes of Batchelors, Branston, Flora, Aqua Pura, Crisp ‘n Dry, Shippam’s, Napolina and Crosse & Blackwell and it produces branded products for clients such as Tesco, Waitrose, Asda and Marks & Spencer.

The business has a reporting line to Mitsubishi’s headquarters in Tokyo, but Ms Simpson insists the Liverpool board, primarily homegrown directors with the exception of two Japanese colleagues, has responsibility for all Princes’ corporate decisions and strategy: “Our board make the decisions on site.”

Princes has previously been accused of following its Japanese parent’s penchant for flying “under the radar”, but Ms Simpson says that is how its 600 suppliers across more than 40 countries prefer it.

“We are a conservative company, but we have strong relationships with all our customers and retailers and have close contact at all levels,” she said.

“We have been cautious as a business, but we have supplier partnerships that have been in place for two or three decades.”