New boss at Crisp Malting Group aims to expand on a global legacy
There's been a change of leadership at the Crisp Malting Group – but the commitment to growth, meeting market demand and supporting East Anglian barley growers remains unaltered.
With its worldwide reputation for producing high-quality barley, it is no coincidence that north Norfolk is home to Britain's largest independent maltster.
But the global growth of Crisp Malting Group has been achieved through more than just a helpful location
Managing director Euan Macpherson, who will retire in June to after steering the company's development for 29 years, puts the success down to teamwork, a willingness to grasp opportunities and a focus on the demands of the market.
The relationship with East Anglian farmers is also a key factor. From its headquarters at Great Ryburgh, near Fakenham, the company supports a partnership of 280 barley growers in Norfolk alone, and buys 315,000 tonnes of UK malting barley a year, worth over £60m.
Its malt is sold all over the world, with customers ranging from Scotch whisky distilleries and traditional ale brewers and major beer brands.
Craft brewing has become a huge growth area, particularly in the USA, with exports rising due to the consistently high quality of English barley, with East Anglian specialities like Maris Otter particularly successful.
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The acquisition of Tivoli Maltz earlier this year, with its two maltings in Hamburg in Germany and Bydgoszcz in Poland, has increased Crisp's production capacity to 445,000 tonnes.
When Mr Macpherson joined in 1987, that figure was 128,000 tonnes.
'It is quite amazing when you consider it,' he said. 'When it is happening, you don't realise it. You just see the next development and the next plan and you do it, and then something else comes up.
'Businesses that don't look forward generally fall backwards. Customer service and quality are absolutely paramount, and we have built up a very good team here. It is not rocket science. It is very much a relationship business, this. Establishing good relationships with your customers is what brings them back.
'Because we are an extension of an agricultural business we also have a big impact on the farming economy. Norfolk barley and Norfolk malt is going all over the world in quite substantial quantities. Not just craft brewers, but majors as well.'
After about 40 years in malting, brewing and distilling, Mr Macpherson said he aims to 'improve my golf handicap' in his retirement, after handing over the reins to new managing director Adrian Dyter.
Global reach, Norfolk commitment
Crisp Malting Group's new managing director is Adrian Dyter, a former commercial director for Boortmalt in Bury St Edmunds, who joined brewery giant Carlsberg in 2011 as a global category manager for malt and malting barley.
'The opportunity came up to join Crisp and I felt as though it was what I have been training for all these years,' he said.
'The company has done extremely well under Euan's leadership, particularly against the backdrop of a declining industry, and it will be challenging to maintain that momentum and that growth. But that is my aim.
'Integrating the new acquisition (Tivoli Malz) is the number one priority. These businesses have been operating in their own way and what we have got to do is utilise the strengths of the group, and try to spread the best practice across geographical borders. It will give Crisp a much greater geographical reach. We are now able to supply international customers from several different origins. It provides some risk management if there is a poor harvest in our region.
'We are still committed to Norfolk. This will be our home focus. The great benefit to East Anglia and Norfolk origin is the consistency of the barley and the knowledge in our supply chain. The whole infrastructure is geared up to deliver a high-quality product.'
Future investment plans
Crisp Malting Group's current investment plans include four new 2,500-tonne silos being built at Great Ryburgh, while an application for a warehouse extension including a sack plant and speciality malt production is currently awaiting the outcome of a judicial review.
Future ambitions include sludge de-watering and anaerobic digestion plants, green energy sources, an expanded export facility at Hamburg, and more storage silos at Ryburgh, Bydgoszcz in Poland and Portgordon in Scotland.
David Thompson, chief executive of Anglia Maltings, which has owned Crisp Malting Group since 2005, said extra production capacity gave the company greater ability to deal with larger customers.
'We have a rule that we don't do any more than 15pc of our business with any one customer,' he said. 'Now that we are producing more than 400,000 tonnes, that maximum has gone up to 60,000 tonnes, and that can be done from several geographic regions, which takes risk out of it.
'We don't want to be dependant on one single customer, or one segment. We want to spread the country risk and spread the sector risk and the customer risk.'
The company is also discussing the possibility of bringing the redundant floor maltings in Dereham back into use, as the traditional malting process is favoured by the growing craft sector.
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