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Fresh produce growers cultivate a new future with support from Clydesdale Bank

26 October 2015

One of Scotland’s leading family-owned farming businesses is passing the baton to a new generation as part of a succession plan supported by Clydesdale Bank.

Outgoing Stewarts of Tayside chairman Jim Stewart, who co-founded the business 40 years ago with wife Mary will be replaced by his brother Will Stewart. The change in ownership will safeguard jobs and provide stability for customers as well as create a platform for further growth.

The transaction was assisted by a funding package from Clydesdale Bank, with the deal delivered by Lucy Graham, Senior Director in Clydesdale Bank’s Specialist and Acquisition Finance team.

Clydesdale Bank is a long standing supporter of Scotland’s food and drink sector, with the Bank recently renewing its strategic partnership with industry organisation Scotland Food & Drink. It also enjoys a similar partnership with Scottish Bakers.

Established in 1975 and based on the banks of the Tay at Tofthill Farm, Perth, Stewarts of Tayside Limited is a family owned business that grows, packs and delivers its fresh produce entirely under its own control and direction.

Under Jim and Mary the Group has grown from being a small 200 acre farming operation with one employee into the largest grower and packer of swede in the UK and the largest independent grower and packer of strawberries in Scotland.

Will and his wife Sheena joined the Group twenty years ago, with their son, Liam, joining in 2007. Over this time period the Stewart family have worked closely together to oversee significant organic growth in the Group to its current market position at the forefront of the swede and soft fruit sectors.

Jim will retain a minority equity shareholding and continued executive directorship.

Jim said: “Whilst I will not miss the day to day pressures of controlling a business of our scale, I am excited by the plans for the future and look forward to supporting Will, Sheena, Liam and our finance director Doug Baxter through these changes.

“I firmly believe that the Group’s future long term success is in safe hands and that our customers will continue to be provided with quality produce and the unrivalled efficient service they have come to expect.” Will said: “Although the market continues to be challenging we have ambitious plans to strengthen the business. Alongside the change of control, the plan also includes a refresh of our branding and media content, our office space, product innovation, key appointments to our sales team and further growth in our business.

“Our new strategy will help us to take advantage of the numerous exciting opportunities in the marketplace, which in turn will deliver growth and will ensure we continue to supply our customers and the end consumer with our high quality fresh produce.

“I am grateful to Jim and Mary for the success of their stewardship over the years and for working with myself, Sheena and Liam on our succession plan. Jim and Mary both deserve great credit and recognition for their roles in building up the business and its reputation from scratch to what it is today and I look forward to Jim’s continued involvement and wise counsel in the coming years”.

“I also wish to thank Clydesdale Bank for supporting our plans to bolster and grow the business.”

Lucy said: “We are thrilled to confirm that Clydesdale Bank has been appointed as funding partner to Stewarts of Tayside.

“The business is one of Scotland’s most renowned fresh produce growers, with a reputation for fantastic quality and service. Over the years the firm has been recognised by numerous industry awards.

“The changes planned by husband and wife team Will and Sheena, together with their son Liam, will build on the solid base previously established and deliver new opportunities for growth.

“With 2015 designated the Year of Food and Drink in Scotland, there is a great opportunity to develop and grow our food and drink sector. Clydesdale Bank’s experience in the industry puts us in a strong position to support local food businesses as they seek to achieve their growth ambitions.”

Jim and Will, along with Finance Director Doug Baxter, were advised by Andrew Walker of Johnston Carmichael and Ian Williams of Campbell Dallas.

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