Peter’s Food Service MD Neil Court-Johnston is leaving the company to take the reins at Pooles Pies after snapping it up from Wigan FC owner Dave Whelan for £3m.

Whelan, who bought Pooles in the late 1980s, sold it this month to Court-Johnston as part of a five-year loan deal.

He also injected £2m of working capital into the business - lent at “a very preferential rate” - said Court-Johnston, who formally starts at Easter.

Pooles already had strong distribution for its own-label and branded business in the North West but would look to expand nationally, said Court-Johnston, who is extending the range from frozen unbaked pies to include frozen baked products. The company has already won a £2m contract with Iceland to supply its frozen fruit pies from Easter, replacing a German supplier. It will also export savoury pies for the first time - to Hong Kong via Starbucks - from June.

As well as organic growth, Court-Johnston also intends to be acquisitive. “When Ranjit Boparan decides to sell Hollands we should talk,” he said.

Pooles has 50 employees and £5m in annual sales. Court-Johnston intends to double sales each year in the next three years and is eyeing other categories including quiches and puddings. “We’re looking to be the one-stop shop for pastry.”

He has also raided the talent at Hollands. In the next two months, Maria Yuste will join as product development manager and Paul Lacey as technical director.

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