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1897 Company founded by William Vestey (later Lord Vestey) and his younger brother Edmund (later Sir Edmund) from a family butchery business in Liverpool.
1895 They were a pioneer of refrigeration, opening a cold store in London
The Vestey brothers were initially sent to South America in an attempt to make their fortune because the economy there was booming. They started by buying game birds and storing them in the cold stores of American companies before shipping them to Liverpool.
These early activities soon developed into importing beef and beef products into the UK, which in turn led to them owning cattle ranches in Brazil, Venezuela and Australia and their own meat processing factories in Argentina, Uruguay (Frigorífico Anglo del Uruguay), New Zealand and Australia (in 1914 Vestey Brothers built a meat processing works at Bullocky Point, Darwin, Australia, but closed its operations in 1920 after the Darwin Rebellion).
In 1915 the brothers, after being refused a request for income tax exemption made to David Lloyd George, moved to Buenos Aires to avoid paying income tax in the UK. The family later administered the business through a Paris trust that enabled it to legally avoid an estimated total of £88m in UK tax until the loophole was closed in 1991.
Vestey Brothers also developed a business importing eggs from China, and during World War II they were a major importer of powdered eggs.
It is said that by 1930 Vesteys had 30,000 employees world wide and a net value of 300,000 pounds.
1909 To ship the meat back to the UK the Vesteys created their own shipping company, the Blue Star Line. Their first two ships (Pakeha renamed Broderick, and Rangatira renamed Brodmore) were bought and the company registered on July 28, 1911 in London and Liverpool with a capital of 100,000 pounds.
The line owned a number of refrigerated ships (Reefers), and business later expanded to countries as far apart as Egypt and China, carrying passengers in addition to various foodstuffs. Blue Star was finally sold to P&O Nedlloyd for 60,000,000 GBP in 1998, although most of the refrigerated ships were retained by Vestey's Albion Reefers subsidiary, which later merged with Hamburg Sud to form Star Reefers, finally sold off in July 2001.
In the middle of the 20th century, Vestey companies dominated the UK wholesale and retail meat trade, selling refrigerated and canned meats, as well as leather and other by-products. Having saved cash reserves for the purpose, they entered into a price war with the US owned importers to largely drive them from the UK market.
Vestey developed the country-wide Dewhurst chain of butchers shops, which was eventually disbanded in 1995 in the face of increasing competition from the supermarket chains. Dewhurst were the first to introduce the innovation of glass windows on butcher's shops - previously meat had been exposed to the elements and pollution.
The Vestey Group had acquired a large amount of land in Australia, and using the Australian Aboriginal people as cheap labour. This sparked the Gurindji strike in 1966, where the Group was forced seven years later by Gough Whitlam's government to return part of the land they owned to its indigenous owners.
In Venezuela in 2005, state troops occupied a cattle ranch owned by the Vestey Group, under a 2001 land use reform programme instituted by the Hugo Chávez government. In March 2006, the Group reached an agreement with the Venezuelan government, ceding two ranches to the state while retaining ownership of eight.
After a period of major restructuring in the late 1990s, Vestey Group today consists of Angliss International and significant cattle ranching and sugar cane farming interests in Brazil and Venezuela.
Sam Vestey, born 19 March 1941, is the great grandson of the 1st Lord Vestey, and the current head of the family and Chairman of the Group. He owns the 6,000 acre Stowell Park Estate at Stowell Park, Gloucestershire, as well as a villa in Nice and a Townhouse in Belgravia.
The Vesteys endowed the Vestey Professorship of Food Safety and Veterinary Public Health at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.