Organic vegetable box company Abel & Cole has been sold to William Jackson, the maker of Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire puddings.

The William Jackson Group – a privately owned food manufacturer based in Hull that currently has no retail operations – has acquired the whole business which will be run by its existing management.

Abel & Cole has been up for sale since January 2011 when PwC was appointed to handle the process.

The acquisition by William Jackson will surprise onlookers who had assumed a trade buyer would take on the business. Morrisons, Ocado and The Co-op have all been put in the frame to buy the company in the past.

Abel & Cole suffered declining sales and profits as the recession hit, but has initiated a recovery in recent years after founder Keith Abel returned to the business in 2010 after a two-year break from operational involvement, replacing chief executive Stephen Richards.

Abel said: “With our new partners, we have the security and stability we need to grow and flourish. By joining a family business, which respects and understands us, we can carry on delivering the best veg boxes imaginable to our wonderful customers.” 

Turnaround specialist Ian Gray was parachuted into the retailer during the same year to revive its fortunes.

Retail Week revealed last week that EBITDA jumped from £2.9m to £4.6m while turnover rose 32% to £46.5m in the year to August 12.