Stephensons’ Animal Feeds first began trading in the winter months of 1982. A small building at Canteen Mill was bought by the family, and William (Bill Stephenson) – picture – started trading with his eldest son, Paul Stephenson. Initially the store was stocked with animal feeds that had been bought in from other manufacturers. Within a short space of time, Paul and his father had managed to source and purchase some milling equipment, this enabled them to begin manufacturing some basic diets for cattle and sheep. The business steadily gathered some momentum, and when Philip, Paul’s younger brother left university, he soon found himself in the position of partner in the business. Both in possession of engineering degrees, they saw the potential for a fully operative feed manufacturing mill, more equipment was purchased and installed by them, and the range of manufactured products increased once more to include poultry feed and basic horse diets.
The business continued to grow, and by the mid 90’s it was apparent that more space was desperately needed. After much negotiation, the adjoining patch of land was purchased and a new steel framed building was erected at Canteen Mill. This footage allowed room for an array of new equipment – milling machinery, pelleting presses, mixers, conveyors, grinders, bulk storage hoppers, feed conditioners, a bagging plant and so on. Towards the end of the first year in the new building, Claire, the middle one of two brothers had joined as the third partner, together with three full-time members of staff, the product range had widened and new, more specialist equipment was required.
In 1998, the Universal Feed Assurance Scheme was launched in the UK, this scheme forms the basis of EU food and feed legislation – part and parcel of the UK lifestock assurance scheme, it is recognisable on meat and dairy products by the ‘red tractor’ mark. The directors, Paul, Claire and Philip, took the decision to be part of the scheme which, in essence, ensures traceability from source to end user of all the constituent parts which go into compound feed. Assured status was gained over 15 years ago, the sourcing of raw materials, manufacturing and its processes have been successfully audited every year since then.
The year 2010 saw the completion of a new shop, Robinwood Country Store and warehouse at Robinwood Mill, three hundred yards up the road from Canteen Mill. This resulted in the separation of manufacturing from selling, freeing-up space for an automated packing line and a robot to palletize bags, allowing for a dedicated manufacturing feed mill.
The new Country Store allowed for a much wider range of goods, pet foods and accessories, supplies for poultry keepers, garden birds, farm husbandry and hardware supplies, a large range of equestrian products, boots, wellingtons and waterproof clothing.