100 years serving the food and drinks industries
This year (2019) we celebrate our centenary – it is 100 years since the first organisation that is part of what is now Campden BRI was established. And now, Campden BRI is the world’s largest independent membership-based food and drink research organisation – serving food and drinks companies the world over. We currently have over 2,600 member companies from 80 countries, including all of the top 10 UK retailers, the top 15 global food and drink manufacturers, and many of the world’s biggest brands. Here’s a brief history, from how we began to where we are now…
The First World War
During the First World War the UK government was looking for methods to preserve foodstuffs for transport to the troops in Europe. As the Vale of Evesham was a major area for fruit and vegetable production, a pheasant feed milling facility by Chipping Campden railway station was selected as a base for two scientists from the University of Bristol to investigate options. The war ended before the building had been secured, but the project continued, and the Campden Experimental Factory came into being in 1919.
It all started with canning
Canning was deemed to be the most suitable preservation method, and for the next 30 years most of the pioneering scientific studies that led to the now well-established UK canned food industry were performed here. Direct government funding was gradually replaced by industry contributions until the organisation became fully self-funding in 1953.
Around this time, work began into frozen food production, and in the 1960s expanded rapidly into all areas of food and drink processing and preservation, including all the back-up services such as chemical and microbiological analysis, fruit and vegetable variety trials, packaging considerations, consumer and sensory studies, hygienic design of facilities and equipment, publishing of guidance documents and training of food industry staff.
Subsequent mergers brought this expertise together with expertise in milling and baking (through the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association, in 1995) and alcoholic drinks (through Brewing Research International, in 2008). We now have nearly 400 staff in the UK, a Hungarian subsidiary and an office in South Korea, and perform work for companies throughout the world. In the UK, our headquarters is in Chipping Campden, our alcoholic drinks focus in Nutfield, and our consumer centre is at Leamington Spa. Collectively our facilities include three fully equipped food processing halls, milling and bakery pilot plant, pilot plant facilities for malting and brewing, product and process development facilities, a leading-edge sensory analysis suite, and extensive research and analytical laboratories covering microbiology, hygiene, chemistry, biochemistry and microscopy.
Our remit is to provide the food and drink industry with the research, technical and advisory services it needs to ensure product safety and quality, process efficiency and product and process innovation.
With industry, for industry
On the subject of research, our R&D programme is chosen by and reflects the needs of our industrial members. We achieve this and maintain close working relationships with industry through frequent meetings of our 12 member interest groups.
We also carry out contract research and development work on behalf of UK government departments, levy boards, industrial consortia and the European Union. Consultancy work is also carried out under aid-funded programmes for countries with developing market economies.
That’s a potted history of our first 100 years. We’re proud that our members include the best known brands in the world and even happier with the trusted relationships that we have built with them. We’ll be marking the centenary in various ways – including at our annual Campden BRI Day, which this year is on Wednesday 12 June. We hope to see you there. In the meantime, thank you for your support!