PROFILE: KEITH GILL

Durham Food Hub Manager

From Tudor Crisps to Durham Food Hub via Phileas Fogg

Keith Gill, pictured with wife Pauline, at the launch of one of his many business ventures, The Old Post Office bed and breakfast, based in Lanchester, near Consett.

Durham Food Hub manager Keith Gill (MSc Hon) is a seasoned local entrepreneur with over 35 years experience in the food industry.

Officially retired in 2012, Keith came out of retirement five years later to help shape and manage this new role.

Tudor Crisps

Within a corporate structure he acted a Marketing Manager for Tudor Crisps in Peterlee from 1979 until he left in 1982. In that time he launched.

  • Tudor Pork Scratchings – a superior product that used only back skin from the Tulip Meat Company (Pork products) based in Denmark. This added to the whole Tudor savoury snack range which included crisps, nuts and savoury products.
  • Tudor Savoury Straws – the first and most successful savoury snack product (none crisps) innovated from the Tudor site. All others were copies of their parent company – Smiths Food Group.
  • Tudor Crisp flavour varieties but a new overall marketing campaign introducing a ‘likely lad’ Terry in their advertising that became iconic with a new advertising line of ‘Tudor – the only crisp worth it’s salt’
Derwent Valley Foods

Keith co-founded a new entity called ‘Derwent Valley Foods Ltd’ which created and introduced ‘Phileas Fogg’ – a range of savoury snacks aimed specifically to Adults in 1982 with new products into the UK of Tortilla Chips, Californian Corn Chips, Mignon Morceaux and Shanghai Nuts . The brand became very successful in the whole of the UK and was considered the most successful Grocery Sector new introduction for 30 years. The company employed 280 people and had sales of £25m per annum at the time of its sale to United Biscuits in 1993.

Tanfield Food Company

He also co-founded another new entity called ‘The Tanfield Food Company Ltd’ in 2003, which pioneered the application and use of ‘thermal processing’ (similar to cooking within a steam pressure cooker in sealed pouches) to produce ranges that had long shelf lives for ready meals that combined convenience with provenance proven, traceable and sustainable ingredients, no food wastage and a lower footprint than the fresh-chilled products because they needed no refrigeration for transport, display and storage. The key retail brand ‘Look What We Found’ design and communication featured our key ingredient farmers for meats and vegetables to make our products.

Other markets sectors challenged included:

  • Using the right blend of ingredients we were able to pioneer food suitable for people with food intolerances like gluten and lactose.
  • Using ‘portion control’ they pioneered the ‘Home Delivered Weight Management Diet Hamper’ market with partners such as ‘Diet Chef’ (independent), ‘Jenny Craig’ (Nestle) and ’Rosemary Conley’ (independent).
  • The ambient temperature supply chain also allowed us to pioneer new sales channels with high wastage implications such as Discount Airlines and Train Travel.
Other ventures, retirement and return to food

Between 1993 and 2003 Keith broadened his business horizons by working in strategic development as Chairman for Automatic Mini-bars for the hotel industry, managing the ‘Predator’ football boot licence with Adidas and sports management including several sports stars in football and athletics.

He finally returned to food management in 2003, when he co-founded The Tanfield Food Company. Keith retired from the businesses two years after a large investment by Nestle in 2010 to allow further business development at 61 years old.

Between 2012 to 2015 he worked as a food and business consultant for companies and products with dietary benefits such as weight management for a German company and re-aligning a brand aimed at chronic kidney disease to broaden its appeal to change blood chemistry tackling high cholesterol, sugars and hypertension with a Professor of Nutrition using food as a ‘treat and a treatment’.