Vitax is a fourth generation family-owned business with roots which go back long before the gardening industry as it is known today even existed.
Our origins can be traced back to G H Richards Limited, established in 1880 and based in Bermondsey, London. Richards was a pioneer manufacturer of insecticides and supplier of horticultural sundries.
During the second World War, my grandfather, Frank Henry Gooding, a tomato grower and sales agent based on Guernsey, was evacuated to London. After the war he became involved with, and later took control of, Synchemicals Limited, a company formed in this period of austerity and rationing to promote the use of growth hormone products to growers and nurseries.
Synchemicals originally sold products to G H Richards Limited but later acquired the business and adopted its Bermondsey base as the company headquarters.
My father Brian, and my uncle Douglas, together with my aunts Valerie and Suzette, joined Synchemicals and, as the gardening market burgeoned in line with improved living standards, it developed a portfolio of garden and professional products throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. These included the introduction of the now famous “Nippon” ant killer brand. I became the third generation of the family to be involved in the business when I joined the Company in 1980.
As the business expanded nationally, it became increasingly cumbersome to deliver to all our customers from South-east London and in 1988 we relocated to larger purpose-built premises in Coalville, Leicestershire.
At the same time we purchased the business of Vitax Limited, a well-established manufacturer of fertilisers, based in Skelmersdale, Lancashire. Vitax was the holder of a highly valued Royal Warrant as supplier to HM The Queen’s household and the decision was made to trade under the Vitax brand name.
Fertiliser production continued at Skelmersdale, and in 1993 the business secured the quality production standard BS5750/ISO9002. Chemical and powder filling requirements continued to be met by a production unit based in Woodville, Derbyshire.
A joint venture with Irish company Clairstone Co Ltd in 1990 provided a valuable entry into the growing media market. Here we have concentrated on supplying high quality compost, marketed under the Q4 brand, to both the amateur and professional markets.
In 2005 the group expanded further through the acquisition of Suffolk-based Supaturf Products Limited, a respected manufacturer of quality line marking liquids and marking machines for the sports industry. The business has continued to grow both in the UK and overseas markets. During this time my eldest daughter Anja joined the business and has made steady progress in Finance and Administration to become our Group Company Secretary. In 2008 my son in law Andy Gurney joined the business in commercial sales, progressing recently into production and general management.
2010 saw the relocation of distribution operations from Coalville and manufacturing processes from Woodville to an extended state-of-the-art facility at Skelmersdale. As a result of this reorganisation, Vitax made significant progress in reducing its carbon footprint, with the majority of customers now receiving their deliveries from a single point of manufacture and distribution.
In 2013 we acquired Slug Gone, an organic slug and snail deterrent made from 100% wool waste. This pelleted product is approved by both the Soil Association and by British Wool.
In 2014 the Skelmersdale and Coalville sites gained full certification of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. This shows the company’s commitment to quality, focus, and to the management of the impact of our operations on the environment.
In December 2014 we purchased the entire share capital of Organico Limited, based in Somerset. Organico is the well respected manufacturer of 6x, a traditional fibrous garden fertiliser made from chicken manure sourced from local farms.