Pick of the Crop

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Pick of the Crop's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Pick of the Crop is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
Director Phil Noblett
Our preparation facility,
Based in Preston, Pick of the Crop is a locally focused
fresh produce company. Founded in 1989 by current
Director Phil Noblett, it has developed a strong reputation,
determined to ensure the creation of strong foundations for the
future. Phil tells
The Parliamentary Review
about the journey he
and his team have been on over 30 years and discusses his and
the business’s plans going forward.
To be reflecting on the success and progress of a business I founded largely out of
desperation 30 years ago is quite bizarre, but it is an achievement I am very proud
of. At the time, I was facing an insecure future and simply decided to take a leap
of faith and start a business out of my kitchen at home. They were truly humble
beginnings but I set about preparing vegetables for local caterers in the Preston
area with determination.
Work was hard to come by in the first 12 months. I had just moved into a small
unit close to my home and the government grant I received helped me immensely.
The real change came when I was asked to contact a food factory in Southport,
the management of which wanted prepared vegetables for their ready meals
before they were supplied to supermarkets. I took on the contract and although it
was relatively short lived because of the scale of the work they wanted, it allowed
me to invest in machinery and also opened other avenues of business – but most
importantly, it gave me the confidence to expand.
A special mention here for my wife, in-laws and family, who all worked tirelessly
to meet the deadlines set by the factory. In 1994, I moved to our present unit and
employed staff to come on board and help manage the workload. The units were
»Director: Phil Noblett
»Founded in 1989
»Based in Preston
»Services: Fresh produce
preparation and delivery
»Pick of the Crop works with
over 250 clients
»Turnover is consistently over
£1 million a year
Pick of the Crop
Highlighting best practice
gradually reformed into a specialised
facility for preparing fruit and
vegetables. This complemented our
delivery service and with my new tools
and processes I was able to spread my
net wider.
Local ethos
Throughout our history our growth has
been steady and we are now at the
point where further expansion is not
a priority. We regularly turn over £1
million a year, which was an original
goal of mine, so the future is largely
about maintaining our success and
securing our sustainability. I have been
at the company for a long time and
will be looking to retire within the next
five years, so ensuring that a thorough
legacy plan is in place is crucial.
A key step in delivering a profitable
future was completed in 2014 when
we bought all five parts of the unit
we had been renting since 1994. Our
3,500-square foot complex has since
been renovated and designed to fit our
exact specifications, and we now have
a larger, custom-made preparation
room that allows us to serve a greater
range of client demands.
We also have four vehicles that are
used for collection and distribution,
but we have reined in our geographical
reach in recent years. Serving local
business has always been central to
my vision, but we did venture further
afield in the past into Leeds and South
Yorkshire. For the last ten years we
have instead placed our entire focus on
Lancashire and put local people at the
centre of our operations.
Today, we have about 250 clients,
caterers ranging from sandwich shops
and cafés to restaurants, pubs and
hotels. Some of these clients have
been with us since we started, and it
is very rare that we have lost a client
because of the quality of our work.
When we take on a client, we look
after them and ensure we meet their
demands. As a number of them are
local, we have also developed strong
professional and personal relationships
and this has been central to our steady
success in recent years.
Our vehicles, used for
collection and delivery
Today, we
have about
250 clients,
ranging from
shops and
cafés to
pubs and
Balancing speed and quality
The centre of our business is our food
preparation work, and the quality
service we provide is what sets us
apart as an example of excellence in
our local area. Running a preparation
room is hard work and the manner
in which we do it now is truly a far
cry from when I started out. Initially, I
would operate the preparation room
alone, and keeping up with the speed
at which the catering sector works was
a challenge.
Today, we have a number of highly
efficient processes as the result of
sustained investment in machinery
and staff training. Our units are fully
kitted out with the best equipment,
which not only ensures maximum
speed but also minimises food
waste. Environmental awareness is
crucial in our sector and businesses
can face substantial fines for water
contamination, among other issues.
Most of our clients do not have their
own preparation facilities, so it is vital
we get it right. Working with fresh
fruit and vegetables, too, we have to
take care to retain the freshness and
deliver on time for peak hours. Sadly,
our sector is often seen as a low-skill
area, but I have first-hand experience
of the difficulty many businesses
experience in getting it right. Our staff
deserve a lot of credit for the speed
and professionalism with which they
approach their roles and I hope to see
the whole sector given more respect in
the future.
Confidence in succession
Protecting the future of the business is
very important to me, having given 30
years of my career to building it up to
its position today. I truly believe it is a
business worth keeping hold of and I
hope that whoever takes over will be
in a position to drive it in the direction
they deem best.
I am confident that the people I
employ at the moment have the
business’s best interests at heart and
I know they are proud of what we
have achieved. After investing so much
time and money into our facilities, it
would be a real shame to see another
business benefiting from that rather
than us. We are a trusted name in the
sector and in the local area, and I am
confident that the future is bright as I
walk away.
Protecting the
future of the
business is
very important
to me
Some of our stock

This article was sponsored by Pick of the Crop. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster