UK: Commercial refrigeration company Epta UK celebrated the 90th birthday this week of its George Barker brand with three days of events at the company’s factory in Bradford.
The oldest of all the Epta group companies celebrated the landmark with events for customers, board directors, current and former staff, friends and local dignitaries.
Wednesday’s customer day featured presentations from Epta Group experts in refrigeration, service and retail. Although charting the history of the company, the presentations looked to the future of the business, its developments and the shape of the retail industry across Europe.
On the Thursday, group CEO Marco Nocivelli and members of the board of directors unveiled the new showroom in the presence of the new Lord Mayor of Bradford, Zafar Ali. In addition to George Barker brands, the new showroom also showcases products from Costan, Bonnet Névé, Eurocryor, Misa and Iarp. It also doubles as a conference room and has a section dedicated as the Epta CO2 Training Centre.
A number of long service awards were also made to members of the team who have served over 40 years with the company.
The Friday was set aside as a celebration day for old and new faces and friends of the business to come together and catch up on old times.
Rise of George Barker
From its incorporation on April 4, 1928, George Barker quickly earned a strong reputation as a designer and manufacturer of custom-made refrigerated cabinets and systems. Aware of the need to keep ahead of developments, the rise of supermarkets prompted a £1m investment in equipment and its first test room at its, then, Bramley site in the 1960s.
In 1984 the company was acquired by the Bullough group, which set the right tone when it subsequently combined its Bramley and Leeds facilities onto its current site in Highfield Road, Bradford – a former Wharfedale hifi speaker factory.
The most significant development came in 1999 when George Barker became part of the Epta Group – at that time known a EL Fi Elettrofinanziaria SpA – in a £26.8m deal with Bullough.
The origins of the Epta Group are based in Italy and owe its status to the entrepreneurial skills of the founder Luigi Nocivelli. After WWll, Nocivelli had begun work in his father’s workshop which he turned into a leading electrical appliance company named Ocean. In the 1970s he became chief executive officer of Ercole Marelli where he nurtured his dream of relaunching Italy’s electromechanical industry. He created a fully-fledged electrical appliance empire before founding Epta and turning it into a multinational specialising in commercial refrigeration, through the strategic buyouts of leading Italian and foreign brands in their respective market segments. His son, Marco Nocivelli represents the family’s second generation at the helm.
Epta is now a multinational Group with brands including Costan, Bonnet Névé, George Barker, Eurocryor, Misa, Iarp and Knudsen Køling. Headquartered in Milan, Epta employs a staff of 5,000 employees, with an annual production capacity of 200,000 units and a turnover of €888mm in 2017. The Group has asserted this leading position with an investment of some €50m in R&D in the last five years.
The acquisition enabled George Barker to capitalise on the experience of its own R&D department and the knowledge and products within the rest of the Group to develop cutting-edge technical solutions.
George Barker’s contracting capabilities, which had first been established in 1985, were bolstered in 2014 by the purchase of respected Hampshire-based contractor Cold Service. Together these companies formed Epta UK; one team capable of supplying innovative, turnkey solutions all across the UK.
The business of Cold Service had begun in 1956 servicing the local community in and around Dorset and Hampshire. Then it grew into a professional and widely respected installation and service organisation working with many national retailers and organisations. Cold Service is also a key supplier of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment to food-to-go, coffee shops and other HoReCa markets.
Now operating with a plant in Bradford and offices in Bradford and Ringwood, Epta UK employs over 400 people and is now well placed to remain dominant in its specialist fields. Last year its turnover was €114m – over 12% of Epta Group turnover.
CO2 training centre
With the rise in these of natural refrigerants, particularly CO2, Epta was one of the first companies to establish a CO2 training centre in the UK. This City & Guilds certified training centre in Bradford has so far seen over 250 staff and external industry specialists being involved in the training and refresher courses offered on advanced techniques.