Name: Hannah Marriage
Business: Marriage’s flour
“People increasingly care about where their food comes from. There is much more awareness and people are more informed than ever, however food provenance continues to be something which requires further awareness - be it educating children on the farm to fork process or through schemes such as Sourced Locally which highlight to consumers the local origins of their food.”
Hannah is one of the sixth generations to help run W & H Marriage & Sons, a family-run miller in Essex now in its 193rd year, and the first woman in the family to join the business. Marriage’s mill a wide range of bread making and culinary flours, organic varieties and speciality flours, producing approximately 650 tonnes of flour every week.
They source much of the wheat they use from local farmers based near their historic site, Chelmer Mills, many of whom have worked with Marriage’s for generations.
Working for the family business was not inevitable for Hannah, who studied History at Edinburgh University, before joining a PR agency in London which she describes as ‘amazing grounding’. She had been there for two years when an opportunity at Marriage’s for a marketer caught her eye.
It was by no means a shoo-in, and Hannah went through three interviews before she was formally invited to join the business. That was seven years ago, and since then Hannah has become a family Director, overseeing many elements of the company. “Being a family business, I turn my hand to all sorts of things, such as HR and product development, but primarily I still lead on our marketing.
“From the beginning, I’ve been given the autonomy to get on, which has been so useful. I love getting under the skin of the business and growing our brand and I find working in the food manufacturing sector and the tie we have to agriculture particularly rewarding. To see the flour leave us in tankers, bags and sacks, and then see it turn into something incredible on our bakery, customers’ shelves or in a home bakers’ Instagram photos, is a satisfaction that is hard to beat.”
Hannah has helped the business evolve its marketing, launch new speciality products, such as Golden Wholegrain, spelt, rye and seeded flour, and led on a pivotal re-brand of Marriage’s flours.
Marriage’s also produces animal feed using wheat feed, a by-product when making white flour, at their animal feed mill next to the flour mill. Hannah said: “Having an on-site mill for the animal feed really helps reduce our carbon footprint as the product only travels a matter of metres.”
Marriage’s Flour started supplying the East of England Co-op in 2007as part of the Co-op’s Sourced Locally initiative. “While our business is diverse and our export growing, it is so important for us to be working with a local retailer, which has good opening hours and that people trust. The Co-op isn’t just paying lip service with Sourced Locally. They genuinely champion local food and we have a great relationship.”
Never one to be bored, Hannah studied in her spare time for an MBA (Masters in Business Administration), and outside of work is an avid foodie and runner. Milling is never far from mind however, particularly as a family business. She said: “When I see my parents socially, Dad and I manage about five minutes before conversation inevitably turns to work. When you’re passionate about something, you just can’t help it.”
“As the first woman in the family to join the company, my Grandfather was so chuffed. Like many other sectors, the food industry can feel male dominated at times, but it’s a great employer and there are so many roles. I have thankfully never felt that my gender has been a barrier. There are so many great businesses in our region and opportunities, and lots of supportive people who are happy to help anyone looking to develop their career.”
As a marketer and Director, Hannah is keen to keep on top of food trends and use these to influence the future of the business. “Health continues to be a hot topic, and ancient grains, artisan products and world influence are trends I’m keeping a close eye on, as well as a resurgence in organic since the recession.
“People increasingly care about where their food comes from. There is much more awareness and people are more informed than ever, however food provenance continues to be something which requires further awareness - be it educating children on the farm to fork process or through such schemes as Sourced Locally which highlight to consumers the local origins of their food.”
For more information on Marriage’s flour visit www.flour.co.uk.