During World War I, there were dire shortages of men, horses and vehicles commandeered to the war effort. This hampered any business which was reliant on the timely distribution of its products, such as a dairy company.
United Dairies was formed in 1917 when Wiltshire United Dairies, Metropolitan and Great Western Dairies, and the Dairy Supply Company merged in an attempt to pool their resources and keep their companies operating until the end of the war. But so successful was the merger under chairman Sir Reginald Butler, that the company began to expand, buying other dairies and creameries across the United Kingdom. After the war ended, it bought businesses in Birmingham, Cheshire, Liverpool, Sherbourne and Wales.
The company was a large user of milk trains, and in agreement with the railway companies supplied its own distinctive coloured milk containers to top the railway companies chassis. While rival Express Dairies preferred the Great Western Railway, United Dairies preferred the Southern Railway.
But the early 1950s, United Dairies had become the UK's largest dairy products company. But the company had become inefficient, and needed to improve its operations. After the 1958 retirement of its long-time rival Cow & Gate's chairman, Bramwell Gates, its rival's new chairman Ernest Augustus Taylor began to negotiate a merger between the two companies. The merger was completed in 1959, with the new listed company Unigate emerging.
The dairying side of Unigate's business was sold in 2000 to Dairy Crest.
- Illustration of United Dairies horse-drawn milk float
- Illustration of 1950s United Dairies electric milk float
- History of Unigate @ Funding Universe
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