One hundred year legacy ends in asset sale

    A FAMILY owned business with a history stretching back over a century has gone out of business, leading to the loss of 74 jobs.

    ICA Group – short for International Controlled Atmosphere – was forced to suspend trading after falling into administration last on March 21 after attempts to restructure the company were unsuccessful.

    Headquartered on Mount Ephraim in Tunbridge Wells, but with its main centre of operations in Paddock Wood, ICA blamed a slowdown in the farming and agriculture sector for denting its cashflow.

    Fortunes at the company, which built cold stores for vegetables, prepared meals, bakery, processed meat and drinks – as well as for pharmaceutical applications – have declined rapidly in the last few years.

    In 2013 the company was recording pre-tax profits of £1.4 million, but they were only a third of that the following year. By 2015, the last year accounts are available, the firm was making a pre-tax loss of £56,000.

    Only last year, technology designed by the ICA was being used to Kent’s largest cold store unit for the apple and pear producer AC Goatham & Son in Hoo.

    Last week it was announced that administrators FRP Advisory has begun the process of selling off the 106-year-old company’s assets to settle its debts.

    Philip Armstrong, joint administrator, said it was ‘hugely regrettable’ that a business with a loyal Kent customer base has been forced to close ‘following several years of unsustainable cash flow pressures.’

    He added the firm administrator will continue to realise the assets of the business ‘in the interests of the creditors’.

    Founded in Five Oak Green in 1901 by Harry Lawrence, the company has passed down from generation to generation, with his great-great grandson Andrew Wills taking over as the final Managing Director in 2004.