Bosses of a historic maltings said north Norfolk - and its renowned barley - remains crucial to its global growth ambitions after being bought by a major Canadian food firm.

Crisp Malt, founded in 1870 at Great Ryburgh, near Fakenham, is part of the Anglia Maltings Holdings (AMH) group which was acquired last month by Richardson International.

AMH chief executive Stuart Sands said the deal is "hugely beneficial" for Crisp and its Norfolk maltings, which process the county's world-renowned barley into malts for breweries, distilleries and craft ale manufacturers across the globe.

But despite its growing global influence, it remains committed to its Norfolk base.

The firm is awaiting the final decision on its long-standing plans for an expanded warehouse and distribution facility, while outline permission has already been granted to expand production capacity at the Ryburgh maltings by 60,000 tonnes, to 175,000 tonnes.

"I think it is very promising for the business in East Anglia and north Norfolk," said Mr Sands.

"We will be looking across the world in terms of where we want to go, and the opportunities we want to capture.

"But certainly north Norfolk is our headquarters, it is going to be our largest site, and it is somewhere that gives us great access to malting barley because we have these strong relationships with farmers, so there is nothing that will change there.

"If anything we will invest more."

Eastern Daily Press: Malting barley being harvested for Crisp MaltMalting barley being harvested for Crisp Malt (Image: Crisp Malt)

One of the supply challenges for the expanding firm is the competition for land use.

"I think the challenge for us in north Norfolk at the moment is that land is going to other purposes so it is not necessarily going to cereal production," said Mr Sands.

"A lot of cereals are being grown for anaerobic digestion [for energy production] and then you've got some farms going into these wildflower schemes as well.

"There are other opportunities, so we are competing for land."

So how will the firm convince farmers to keep growing malting barley to fill the anticipated extra capacity in future years?

"The way that it has been approached this in the past is that it is really all about relationships," said Mr Sands.

"They have been malting barley at that site since 1870. There are ups and downs every year, but over the long run we have built very equitable and fair relationships with the farmers and everyone that we do business with, and that is what stands the test of time."

Eastern Daily Press: Becky Gee, grain procurement manager for Crisp MaltBecky Gee, grain procurement manager for Crisp Malt (Image: Frances Brace)

That sentiment was echoed by Crisp's new grain procurement manager Becky Gee, who took over from former commercial director Bob King, who retired in June after a 35-year career.

She took on the "challenging but very rewarding" role in November, after rising to a number of senior positions across the business since joining on a summer job while studying at university 10 years ago.

And she reassured growers that she valued the firm's relationship with its supply line as highly as her predecessor.

"I spent a lot of time with Bob before he retired and he passed on a lot of wisdom," she said.

"Bob has built a strong foundation with some really long-standing relationships, and it is important for me to continue that, to keep that close connection with the supply chain, because we will have some challenges going forward, things like sustainability, and it is really vital we bring the farmers and growers along with us on that journey.

"Growing malting barley is a skill, so having these relationships with experienced farmers, who know how to grow malting barley year after year, is really important for us.

"And from a sustainability point of view, the more of that we can get from the local area, the better."

AMH launched its inaugural sustainability report this week, outlining its commitment to become "net zero" by 2045.

Crisp is about halfway through its harvest intake for this summer, during which it will process 170,000 tonnes of grain across its Ryburgh and Ditchingham sites.

The new grain manager said although the wet weather had put the operation slightly behind, she was happy with the overall quality of the barley being delivered.