Driven by animal welfare, quality and service since 1947, the family behind the Soanes name are proud of their traditional values of quality and service and they pride themselves on rearing Yorkshire’s tastiest chickens. From traditional beginnings when they delivered chicken to customers in wicker baskets, they now deliver five days a week throughout Yorkshire and beyond using their own drivers and a fleet of refrigerated vehicles.
The wicker baskets may have gone, but their commitment to delicious tasting chicken, reared to high standards of animal welfare, remains the same. Everything they do is produced today and delivered tomorrow. From farm to customer within 24 hours – you don’t get any fresher than that. Paul Andrews met non-family Managing Director, Ben Lee, to find out more.
Ben was born and brought up locally and has known the Soanes family all his life. “My father was a local gamekeeper so we have always been around the farming and land-owning community. I finished my A levels and applied for a job in despatch with Soanes and that was the start of a long and rewarding career. I got hooked on factory life and was fortunate to explore many roles within the business and each one afforded a different insight into the business and ultimately I was promoted to Managing Director last year.”
Ben has always been interested in the food sector and his journey within Soanes has continued to pique his interest. “One of my early birthday presents, at the age of around 12, was a food processor which I used to make sausages and my love of food continues to this day. Being promoted to lead the business was the end of a journey of discovery within the business. I always wanted to know more and was always asking questions, trying to make improvements and was encouraged to do so. I rose through the ranks and now have the opportunity to lead the family business.”
Soanes is a strong and well-respected brand, producing excellent quality chicken from six of their own farms and an additional couple of local Yorkshire farms. All of the chickens are reared on real farms by real farmers locally too. “Our relationships with all of the farmers go back a long way, through generations of farmers from the same families, and the farmers name is on the packaging of the finished product which provides real authenticity and food provenance,” continues Ben.
Like many other businesses, Soanes have experienced challenges recruiting the right staff but have invested to aid the process. “Our training hub has certainly helped attract staff and we are in the process of developing a new staff hub, investing in their training and promoting career progression opportunities too,” continues Ben, “and ultimately I am the product of the investment in staff over time too.”
Soanes are celebrating 75 years as a family business and are very proud of all that they have achieved. Sustainability is high on the agenda, as is the welfare and well-being of their chickens and they are proud to say that most of their chickens are farmed within seven miles of the factory. The business provides significant employment to the local community, as it has done for all of its 75 years and is proud of their journey to date.
As Ben concludes, “We are a family business and there are plenty of connections to other families who have provided employees from a number of generations, and we have strong connections to local long-standing faming families too. Our underlying family values are important and create the culture of the business and the constant drive to produce excellent products too. Everyone has a role to play in helping do what we do and it is a real team effort to keep things moving, and improving.”
“We are constantly improving operations and the way that we do what we do, building new, innovative homes for our chickens and investing in new technology such as the biomass plant to provide power. Like many other family firms, we know we have an important role in our community and take steps to improve constantly,” he continues.
“As the saying goes, the ‘proof is in the pudding’ and we are constantly receiving messages complimenting our chicken, which remains so important to us. We remain incredibly proud of our traditional values of quality and service and will never tire of rearing Yorkshire’s tastiest chickens,” concludes Ben.