Associated British Foods (ABF) is a diversified conglomerate with significant interests in food products, fashion retail and ingredients manufacturing. For much of the second half of the 20th century, it was Britain's biggest food company before being overtaken by international rivals. Nevertheless, it remains a substantial business, best-known in the UK for a comparatively small but influential portfolio of packaged grocery products. These include Kingsmill bread, Ryvita crispbread, Jordans and Dorset Cereals, Twinings tea and Silver Spoon sugar, among others, as well as a large collection of ethnic foods led by Blue Dragon Asian sauces and Patak's Indian foods. A more recent addition to the portfolio was Acetum, maker of Mazzetti balsamic vinegars, acquired in 2017. There are also important subsidiaries in Australia (Tiptop bread, Don and KRC cold meats, Yumi chilled deli dips) and the US (Mazola corn oil, Karo corn syrup). ABF also has an extensive presence in trade manufacturing and agriculture. Its Sugar & Agriculture division is the world's second largest producer of sugar, with extensive operations in the UK, Spain, South Africa and China. Other group units are involved in animal feed and seed processing. However, arguably ABF's most celebrated subsidiary is the extraordinarily successful clothing chain Primark. The group is largely the creation of Garfield Weston, who turned his father's successful Canadian bakery business into a global empire. Although a large proportion of ABF's shares are publicly owned, the company is still controlled by the Weston family, who also have other extensive personal interests, including bakeries in North America, Canadian supermarket giant Loblaws, and several upscale department stores including Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and Heal's in the UK. Associated British Foods reported revenues of £15.8bn for the year to Aug 2019; Primark contributed just under half of that total, and the global grocery businesses £3.5bn. George Weston, grandson of Garfield Weston, is CEO.
Capsule checked 26th June 2020
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Historical profile information for Associated British Foods
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Nov 2015: Discount fashion chain Primark was again the star performer among the collected businesses of diversified conglomerate Associated British Foods. Strong international growth, especially in France, helped Primark's revenues to rise by a further 8% to a record £5.35bn, and the first US store opened in Boston in September, just before the group's fiscal year-end. Primark's strong showing offset declines elsewhere in the group, including in its large groceries division, where revenues slipped 5% to £3.2bn. There were even steeper declines in the sugar and agriculture divisions. Group revenues came off 1% to £12.8bn, but pretax profit slumped 30%, as a result of higher commodities, weak trading and impairments against one of its industrial joint ventures.
Adbrands Weekly Update 6th Nov 2014: Low cost fashion retailer Primark delivered another extraordinary performance in the year to Sept 2014, with revenues up by 16% to £495bn, and a 29% jump in operating profit to £662m. Though much smaller than rivals H&M and Inditex, Primark is still delivering much stronger growth, with a growing footprint across Europe. The key challenge ahead is the chain's debut into the US next year. Primark was, as usual, the star performer among Associated British Foods' various businesses. Group revenues slipped 3% as a result of currency fluctuations to £12.9bn. At constant rates growth would have been 1%, but that increase was generated entirely by Primark, with virtually all of ABF's food divisions reporting a decline at constant rates.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Jul 2013: In Canada, leading supermarket group Loblaw acquired the country's biggest pharmacy retailer Shoppers Drug Mart for around $11.9bn. The resulting company becomes Canada's biggest business by revenues with sales in excess of $42bn and more than 2,240 stores nationwide. The Canadian media was almost unanimously positive about the move, which creates a strong national champion to counter the relentless expansion of Walmart, Costco, Target and other US invaders. Last month, Loblaw's main homegrown rival Sobey's snapped up the US operations of Safeway for $5.8bn. Loblaw is controlled by the enterprising Weston family, whose various other interests include George Weston Foods of Canada, the UK's Associated British Foods and its fashion retail subsidiary Primark, as well as upscale department stores Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason.
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