Sisters transform loss-making business into near £100m giant

sisters transform loss-making business into near £100m giant

Liz Parkinson, managing director of Extons, and director Rachael Edwards

A once small loss-making business which supplied local sandwich shops with grated cheese has seen its turnover grow to almost £100m.

Wythenshawe-based Extons started life in 2000 when founder Liz Parkinson purchased a small cheese delivery round which supplied shops and cafes around Stockport. A couple of years later, after spotting a gap in the market for natural sliced cheddar cut to the exact shape of a slice of bread, her sister Rachael Edwards joined the business, followed later by their father and husbands.

Now the company is set to report a turnover of £97.5m for its latest financial year as well as a rise in its profits. It has also increased its headcount from 135 to 150.

The turnover rise for the year to May 31, 2023, comes after the business reported a total of almost £65m in the prior 12 months. Its pre-tax profits have also risen from £1.8m to £2.9m.

The business now includes four production lines and the company processes 450 tonnes of cheese a week. It recently signed off a £4m investment to extend its current premises and add a secondary grating line. The company’s clients include Greggs, Subway, Co-op, Brakes and Wetherspoons

Liz Parkinson said: “When I initially bought the loss-making business, I heard from multiple customers who had voiced concern about the previous owner’s product quality. I made it my mission to supply a quality product and worked hard to ensure our customers knew we were true to our word. I stood by the values of consistent quality, and a product that would be delivered on time.

“And it’s these values that have stayed at the heart of the business for the last 22 years. We’re proud to say that we have fantastic loyalty from both customers, and employees, many of whom are still with us from those early days.

“No one knew who Extons were and there were large established cooperatives that dominated the market. We stayed unperturbed and mustered up a quiet resilience which enabled the business to grow and in 2018, we decided to invest heavily into retail gaining AA unannounced BRC where we found success supplying into the UK’s major retailers.

“The retail side of the business helped us stay afloat, particularly following Brexit and Covid. Our loyal staff pulled out all the stops, going above and beyond every day.

“Being a family has been the backbone of the business. Our husbands have both offered never-ending support, both at home and in work. Our father has been helping in the business for over 20 years, his engineering background has proved essential in helping to fix the machines during the earliest days and our mother was our constant cheerleader.

“An astute businesswoman herself and a continuous inspiration, she always supported us. Most of all, as sisters we have each other’s backs. We truly are the best of friends.”

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