Major Kent berry producer acquires neighbouring salads business, citing “many synergies” between the two suppliers

Premium salad grower LJ Betts has been acquired by the Regan family who own major berry producer Hugh Lowe Farms and plant propagator Blaise Plants.

Laurence J Betts Ltd grows a wide range of wholehead, babyleaf, and multi-leaf salads, as well as cereals, in West Malling, Kent, and has been in production since 1930.

The producer mainly supplies wholesalers, major processors, and the foodservice sector. And it has certifications from BRC Food Safety (BRCGS), Red Tractor, LEAF Marque, M&S Select Farm Produce, GRASP, and Organic Farmers & Growers.

Meanwhile, Hugh Lowe Farms grows strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, as well as soft fruit plants, cereals and vines, on its farms in Kent.

The producer’s berries can be found in leading supermarkets, restaurants, greengrocers, and farm shops throughout the UK from April to November, and the grower has supplied all the strawberries to the Wimbledon Championships for over 25 years.

The business is a founding member of the Berry Gardens Growers cooperative, which now markets its members’ fruit through Driscoll’s following a buy-out in 2022.

Geographically, the Regan family’s purchase of LJ Betts makes sense since the main sites of Hugh Lowe Farms and LJ Betts are less than four miles apart.

Blaise Plants, meanwhile, is a sister company of Hugh Lowe Farms based on the same site in Mereworth near Maidstone. It propagates and raises strawberry, raspberry and blackberry plants for commercial plantings.

Following the acquisition, Stephen Betts will step down as MD of LJ Betts after 45 years running the family business, however he will remain in a consultancy role for the Regan family.

Betts said: “It has been an honour following in the footsteps of my father, Stewart, and my grandfather, Laurence, to build on their foundations centred on growing top-quality produce while using good farming practice and treating staff and customers with respect.

“We are delighted that my cousin, Marion, and her family are taking over LJ Betts and I wish them every success for future generations.”

Marion Regan, who takes over as managing director, said: “We are delighted to continue operating this superb fresh produce business, which we have known and admired for many years.

“Together with the excellent and skilled team at LJ Betts, we aim to grow sustainably into the next generation, sharing the same values that have stood the test of time at Hugh Lowe Farms.

“We look forward to meeting LJ Betts’ valued customers and continuing to supply them with our wide range of fresh and flavoursome salads throughout the year.”

Meanwhile, Philip Betts will hand over to Marion’s husband Jon Regan as chair of the board but said the salad supplier anticipates ‘business as usual’ for customers and staff going forward.

The incoming chairman highlighted the “many synergies” between Hugh Lowe’s berry growing and LJ Betts’ salad business, while LJ Betts commercial director Nick Ottewell stressed that the salad producer’s success is based on “the highest levels of quality, service and sound farming principles”.

“Stephen Betts has set these standards throughout his lifetime of work,” he said, “and it is my firm belief that we can take these practices forward into a bright and successful future.”