S&A Foods was set up by Perween Warsi in her kitchen in 1986 after she despaired of finding a decent samosa at her local supermarket. The business took off after she came top in a blind-tasting competition run by Asda, after which she was awarded a contract to supply them with ethnic ready-meals. Initial growth was funded by a sale to Hughes Foods in 1987 but, when that company went into receivership, Warsi bought S&A back with venture capital backing from 3i. Since then the Derby-based company has expanded rapidly, building three factories and producing more than 1.5m meals a week for clients who include the major supermarket chains and also Waitrose, British Airways and Granada. Profits have grown by 46% pa, from £2.9m in 1996 to £8.8m in 1999, driven largely by a 43% pa turnover increase to £60.1m in the same period. Economies of scale from the company’s factories have also helped, together with a new automated ordering system that links supermarkets directly to S&A’s production and administration facilities. Warsi, who has won a number of entrepreneurship awards, sits on the Government advisory committee on competitiveness in business. She and her husband, Talib, appeared in The Sunday Times Rich List 2000 as the 32nd wealthiest Asians in Britain, with an estimated joint fortune of £45m.
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