Workers at a  North Yorkshire food firm have become part-owners of the business.

Thirsk-based wholesale distributor Crofter’s Foods has become the latest company to transfer its entire shareholding to an Employee Ownership Trust.

More than ten staff have become part-owners of the artisan food and drink business.

Founded in 2005 by Grahame and Jane Armitage, the specialist company works with small local suppliers to distribute chilled, frozen and ambient products wholesale throughout Yorkshire and the North East.

Crofter’s began as a small operation, collecting products from regional Yorkshire suppliers and delivering on a regular journey plan and has evolved to become a long-term supplier to leading independent retailers, hospitality venues and supermarkets with more than 250 customers.

It operates from a warehouse and head office at Thirsk Europark.

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Grahame Armitage is remaining within the business as director with Dave Wood as managing director.

Grahame said: “Transferring ownership into an EOT ensures the special culture and values of Crofter’s Foods live on for next chapter of the company.

“It is a just reward for the hard work and talent of our loyal team who have helped make the business such a success over the past 19 years.

“The move to employee ownership will provide a platform for further growth of the business and continuity of service for our valued customers under the people who know it best and are most committed to its future – its employees.”

Accountants Azets in Yorkshire provided deal and tax advisory services. The team comprised corporate finance partner Tariq Javaid, tax senior manager Karen Sadler, and corporate finance executive Patrick Cree.

Stephen Newman and Meryem Akcicek-Bayston at Yorkshire law firm Ramsdens Solicitors provided legal advice.

Tariq said: “Crofter’s is a great Yorkshire business, promoting and selling great Yorkshire produce.

“With its family culture, values and quality of people, the company is well suited to employee ownership. It was a privilege to work with Grahame in assisting with the transition, and the business can look forward to the future with confidence under its new ownership structure.”

Grahame added: “My thanks to go to Azets and Ramsdens for their work throughout the process.” EOTs have been growing in popularity since they were introduced by the government in 2014.

An EOT structure enables a company to become owned by its employees through the creation of a trust which becomes the majority owner of the business. EOTs can be an effective means of succession planning and a tax efficient alternative to more conventional exit routes for shareholders.

According to the Employee Ownership Association, there are 1,650 EOTs in the UK. Its newly published manifesto of May 2014 reveals that EOTs deliver an average 20 per cent performance increase and 43% revenue uplift.