Samworth Brothers has paid tribute to its life president Sir David Samworth, who died following a short illness, aged 87.
The group said Sir David helped shape the modern food industry over “a long and successful business career”, as well as giving “distinguished service” in many other roles.
Sir David stepped down as Samworth Brothers CEO in 1999 and relinquished his role as chairman in 2005, becoming a life president of the business.
Current group chairman Mark Samworth said the death of his father represented “a significant moment” for the business, which Sir David created with support from his late brother John in the 1970s.
Group turnover had grown to £200m in 1999 when Sir David stepped aside from running the business – with revenues today standing at £1.4bn and the company owning brands such as Ginsters, Soreen, West Cornwall Pasty Co and Urban Eat.
“It was the vision, drive and values of the two brothers that laid down the strong foundations of our business and which drove such outstanding success,” Samworth added.
“Whether in his early days growing the original Samworth family business or later building Samworth Brothers, a strong set of values always permeated David’s business life. He placed great importance on people as the cornerstone of any successful organisation and always sought to create a working environment that reflected this ethos.
“He also believed quality had to be at the heart of any business, whether that was quality of facilities, the product, customer service or our relationship with suppliers. He was enormously proud of the business and the achievements of everyone in Samworth Brothers.”
Born in Birmingham in 1935, Sir David was destined to join the family pig dealing business, started by his grandfather George Samworth in the late 1890s and developed further by his father Frank.
Sir David’s first job in the business came in 1956, following a period of national service joining the Royal Leicestershire Regiment and serving in Africa.
Known as TN Parr, the business grew steadily thanks to a number of acquisitions, with David taking over from his father as managing director.
In 1969, TN Parr doubled in size thanks to a deal to buy Pork Farms, a well-known competitor of the group. Pork Farms was subsequently floated in 1971 before being sold to Northern Foods in 1978.
Soon afterwards, David and his brother John set about creating a new independent food business, which came to be known as Samworth Brothers.
John had purchased an interest in a small pasty company in Cornwall called Ginsters in 1977, and in 1986 this acquisition was joined by Leicester business Walker & Son. The two businesses formed the foundations of the Samworth Brothers group.
Sir David also played an active role in the wider food sector through his career. He served as chairman of the Meat and Livestock Commission from 1980 to 1984, receiving a CBE for his work.
He was a council member of Food of Britain and a non-executive, and later executive director, of Imperial Group from 1982 to 1984 and a non-exec of Thorntons Ltd from 1991 to 1993.
Beyond the business world, David and his wife Rosemary set up the Samworth Foundation in 1978 in a desire to give back to their local community and to support other international causes, particularly in Africa.
Sir David also served on the Trent Regional Health Authority and as deputy lieutenant and high sheriff of Leicestershire.
He was knighted in 2009 for his services to charity.
Sir David married wife Rosemary in 1969 and had four children, three daughters and a son, and seven grandchildren.
Details of the thanksgiving service would be circulated in due course, Samworth Brothers said.