NI food group aims to become legend in our lunchtime

Q&A: EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist Gareth Chambers, Around Noon

Gareth Chambers, Around Noon: “People want to be able to eat healthily regardless of how busy their lives have become”

Gareth Chambers, Around Noon: “People want to be able to eat healthily regardless of how busy their lives have become”

 

Following a management buyout in 2016, 33-year-old Gareth Chambers has grown Around Noon from a company with a £2 million turnover to one with turnover of almost £25 million. The company has witnessed exponential growth and now makes up to 60,000 products per day across more than 20 major brands.

The maker of “handheld food for people on the move” employs almost 300 people between Newry and London and has recently been on the acquisition trail, adding a London manufacturing base as well as a Dublin-based bakery.

Over the past four years, sales have grown by over 44 per cent per annum on average, and Chambers is aiming to lead the company to £100 million in turnover.

Around Noon has recently been picking up accolades for its wares, winning 13 awards last year and five “Sammies”, considered the Oscars of the UK sandwich industry, in the last two years.

Around Noon was originally founded in 1989, and its products can be found in some of the largest coffee shop chains, convenience retailers and forecourt retailers across the Britain and Ireland.

What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start in business?

I watched my parents grow the family business from a kitchen table enterprise into a small manufacturing company. I felt that I could take that original idea and grow it at pace. I completely fell in love with the buzz of business and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique

Our business model is very simple: we make handheld food for people on the move. The popularity of eating out of home and eating on the move has exploded in recent years, and our mission as a business is to “make lunchtime taste better”. We want to drive the food-to-go market forward and want to be seen as a leading light in this ever-evolving space.

What moment/deal would you cite as the “game-changer” or turning point for the company?

Myself and our chairman Howard Farquhar completed a management buyout of the business from my parents in 2016. This enabled me to completely reboot the business in terms of ambition and growth and was a complete game-changer in terms of Around Noon.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

We have a five-year growth plan which targets £100 million turnover in that timeframe. In three years’ time, I expect us to be well along the road to meeting that objective, and key to this will be building on the success of our acquisitions in Dublin and London. Maintaining and enhancing our leading position in the Irish market is crucial, but our main goal is to capitalise on the opportunity to grow the business dramatically in London.

How will your market look in three years?

The food-to-go market is incredibly fast-moving and fast-growing. In the UK, IGD, a consultancy, expects the food-to-go sector to be worth over £23 billion by 2022. In terms of trends, there is a growing trend towards healthy eating. People want to be able to eat healthily regardless of how busy their lives have become.

What would make you a better leader?

More hours in the day. I’m working on better time management and I’m getting there, I think.

How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies?

I like running and exercise and also food. I love to eat out and travel with my wife, Laura. I’m a Manchester United fanatic and try to get to as many games as possible throughout the season.