Sir David Samworth

Source: Samworth Brothers

Sir David Samworth

Sir David Samworth, life president and co-founder of Ginsters owner Samworth Brothers, has died at the age of 87.

Samworth, who passed away from a short illness, was remembered by the food manufacturer for his distinguished service and strong values centred around people and quality.

“This is a significant moment for our business,” said Mark Samworth, Sir David’s son and current chairman of the group, which also owns Soreen, West Cornwall Pasty Co, Urban Eat and Dickinson & Morris.

“Without Sir David, supported by his late brother John, there would be no Samworth Brothers. It was the vision, drive and values of the two brothers that laid down the strong foundations of our business and which drove such outstanding success,” he added.

Sir David stepped down as Samworth Brothers group chief executive in 1999 and relinquished his role as chairman in 2005, becoming a life president of the business. Group turnover had grown from £1m in 1977 to £200m in 1999, and it now stands at £1.4bn, with the business employing more than 11,500 people.

Business beginnings

Sir David joined the family’s pig dealing firm – started by his grandfather George Samworth in the late 1890s – in 1956 following his national service in Africa with the Royal Leicestershire Regiment. Known then as TN Parr, the business grew steadily, and David took over from his father as managing director.

In 1969, well-known competitor Pork Farms was purchased, doubling the size of the operation, and in 1971 Pork Farms was floated before being sold to Northern Foods in 1978. Shortly after, Sir David and John Samworth set about creating the new, independent food business of Samworth Brothers.

John Samworth had purchased an interest in Ginsters – then a small pasty company in Cornwall – in 1977, and in 1986 the acquisition was joined by a Leicester business, Walker & Son, with both companies forming the foundations of the Samworth Brothers group.

Sir David and John Samworth

Source: Samworth Brothers

Sir David and John Samworth

In the years that followed, Sir David and John observed changes in the UK eating habits and the fast-growing market for sandwiches that by 1991 was worth £1.8bn a year.

In 1993 the group opened a state-of-the-art bakery, Bradgate Bakery, in Leicester, with the potential to make 50 million sandwich units a year. Other innovations followed, including moves into convenience meals and desserts.

Quality ethos

“Whether in his early days growing the original Samworth family business or later building Samworth Brothers, a strong set of values always permeated David’s business life,” Mark Samworth said.

“He placed great importance on people as the cornerstone of any successful organisation and always sought to create a working environment that reflected this ethos. He also believed quality had to be at the heart of any business, whether that was quality of facilities, the product, customer service or our relationship with suppliers.

“He was enormously proud of the business and the achievements of everyone in Samworth Brothers.”

Throughout his career, Sir David played an active role in the wider food sector, serving as chairman of the Meat and Livestock Commission from 1980 to 1984, receiving a CBE for his work. He was a council member of Food of Britain and a non-executive – and, later, executive – director of Imperial Group from 1982 to 1984, and a non-executive director of Thorntons Ltd from 1991 to 1993.

Strong champion

Sir David was also a strong champion of traditional regional foods, supporting the successful applications for Protected Geographical Indicator status for Melton Mowbray pork pies and the Cornish pasty.

Beyond the business world, David and his wife Rosemary set up the Samworth Foundation in 1978 in a desire to give back to their local community and to support other international causes, particularly in Africa – his values underpinned by his strong Christian faith.

Sir David also served on the Trent Regional Health Authority and as deputy lieutenant and high sheriff of Leicestershire. He was knighted in 2009 for his services to charity.

Sir David married wife Rosemary in 1969 and had four children, three daughters and a son, and seven grandchildren.

Samworth Brothers said details of the thanksgiving service would be announced in due course.