On the theme of my home town Tandragee, in my speech to school last week I mentioned that through my world food travelling nothing matched the ‘Taste of Tandgrgee’, a small town on the banks of the River Cusher I’m proud of.
There are 2 food companies in the town and they lead the world in their fields: Tayto (the 3rd Largest snack manufacturer in the UK and Whites. Whites make oat based products and here is a little history of the food I grew up on.
Where it all began
1841 And so it begins
In 1841, White’s formally known as T.H. White & Company was founded on the banks of the river Cusher in Tandragee, County Armagh and it is here where they milled oatmeal. In the old days the forces of the river Cusher powered a huge water wheel and in turn the mill’s heavy grinding stones produced White’s porridge oat flake which was known then as White’s Wafer Oats.
Its origins in 1841 holds much significance because it was as a result of the potato famine that the mill started producing porridge oats as a food force for the local people.
Turn of the 20th Century Operations expand
In 1920 White’s was taken over by Tomkins and Courage to become White’s Tomkins & Courage. A second site at Clarendon docks in Belfast was acquired to manufacture rice and animal feed. The company grew and ventured into England throughout the 20th century with factories opening in Liverpool, London and Surrey and with that, operations expanded to include custards, jellies and fruit preserves.
1950s Speedicook is launched in Northern Ireland!
It was during the mid 1900s that White’s Speedicook Porridge was launched in the traditional flat bottom bag which has become an iconic trademark of the brand today. Speedicook soon went on to become the clear brand leader across Northern Ireland promoting itself to Irish housewives through its fast cooking time and Ulster heritage. To this day Speedicook remains Northern Ireland’s favourite porridge brand.
1965-1990s Mergers and takeovers
Spanning a period of 25 years, White’s Tomkins & Courage experienced many mergers and takeovers. The year 1965 brought the merger of R & W Paul of Ipswich with White, Tomkins & Courage to form the Paul & White’s Group. Production was heavily focussed on food ingredients with the merger signalling one of the widest range of flavourings and essences within the food industry and then in 1976, the Rank Hovis Mc Dougall takeover happened. It wasn’t until 1983 when White’s was bought over by Cunningham, Smith and Taylor that White’s Speedicook had its origins.
1990s End of an Era brings focus back to Oat Milling
In the mid 1990s White’s was bought by Fane Valley, a Northern Irish farmer owned cooperative in 1994. Recognising the potential of this little company with its strong connection to families and its foothold in the community, Fane Valley has invested significantly in rebuilding the mill and turning it into one of the most modern and largest oat miller in Ireland today. White’s has close links to local growers – some of whom have been supplying the company for four generations
In recognition of White’s commitment to providing the highest quality oat products White’s has won a string of awards including breakfast champions by the Home Grown Cereal Authority and several Great Taste Gold Awards from the Guild of Fine Food.
Oats are recognised as a natural super grain with all the benefits of 100% wholegrain. They have a low GI providing a slow release of energy throughout the day and have had the EFSA (European Food Standards Agency) endorsement for helping to actively lower cholesterol.
White’s has an extensive product range including traditional porridge oat flakes, instant porridge oats, hearty organic oats and crunchy oat clusters. Some of its products include White’s microwaveable porridge Toat’ly Oaty Easi-Cook porridge, Toasted Oats- crunchy wholegrain oat clusters with delicious fruit pieces, Real Fruit Porridge, its Organic range and not forgetting the iconic Speedicook brand.
White’s has an extensive distribution network selling into all the major retailers within UK and Ireland as well as exporting its products globally, selling to customers as far away as Hong Kong, Malaysis, UAE, United States and Europe.