Fresca Group acquires shares held by JV partner Rainbow Growers as part of its strategy to invest in sustainable production of protected crops

Fresca Group has increased its stake in the ownership of major glasshouse complex and salad grower Thanet Earth.

The group announced it had acquired the shares currently held by its joint venture partner Rainbow Growers Group UK for an undisclosed sum.

The business will now trade as Thanet Earth Peppers and will continue to be led by Pleun van Malkenhorst as managing director.

Fresca CEO Martyn Fletcher said: “Post-Brexit, there has been increased demand for more UK grown fresh produce to ensure food security in our own country. Given environmental pressures and the need for us all to continue to reduce our carbon footprint, our strategy is to continue to invest in the sustainable growing of protected crops.”

Reflecting on Thanet Earth’s construction around 15 years ago, Thanet Earth chairman Chris Mack added: “Wim Grootscholten of Rainbow Growers Group was the first person that we turned to when we took on this demanding project. He immediately recognised the potential to build a large-scale, totally modern glasshouse complex in the UK, growing a range of products.

“Thanet Earth would not have happened without Wim’s foresight and dedication since we set out on this together some 15 years ago. In the last seven years, Rainbow UK has played an active and pivotal role in Thanet Earth’s growing success in the UK market. I am delighted with this strategic opportunity to invest further in the Thanet Earth business.”

Grootscholten said: “The time is right to hand over the responsibility of our investment in Thanet Earth to our long-established partner, Fresca Group. The business has strong development plans for the future, and I have every confidence that Fresca will continue to successfully lead the business, reinforcing Thanet Earth’s position as one of the country’s leading growers of protected salad crops.”

Fresca Group is a major part of the fresh produce supply chain in the UK and beyond, with a combined turnover of circa £460m, and over 1,200 people working across eight locations around the UK.

The company operates as a grower, importer, clearance agent, wholesaler and major operator in fruit, salads and vegetables.

Fresca’s multiple businesses also provide ripening, packing, logistics and customs solutions to all the major UK retailers, as well as through the wholesale markets and foodservice channels. Roughly 43 per cent of the business is owned by its employees.

Meanwhile, Thanet Earth is a large-scale development of glasshouses near Birchington on the East Kent coast. It grows speciality tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers for sale at the major UK retailers.

Thanet Earth is the UK’s largest facility of its kind and has been growing protected salad crops since 2009. The site currently has six glasshouses that produce around 400 million tomatoes, 30m cucumbers and 24m peppers each year.

Rainbow Growers specialise in growing, harvesting and packaging bell peppers. Established in 1991, Rainbow Growers Group is a cooperation of entrepreneurs, based in the Netherlands. They expanded into the UK when they became joint venture partners at Thanet Earth back in 2008.

The group has eight nurseries in the Netherlands, spanning 100 hectares, as well as operations in Tunisia.