LDC Top 50 2022
Nagma Ebanks-Beni MBE and Nima Beni
After forging their own careers in London, brother-and-sister team Nima Beni and Nagma Ebanks-Beni joined their parents’ pizza-cheese processing company, Prima Cheese in County Durham. “We saw an opportunity to tighten up processes and scale up,” says Nagma. The pair got BRC Food Safety accreditation, developed their own superior pizza cheese recipe and started exporting.
Today, Prima shreds 600 tonnes of cheese a week and supplies it to 55 countries worldwide. “Just as people say ‘hoover’ instead of ‘vacuum cleaner’, we want people to say ‘Prima Cheese’ instead of ‘pizza cheese’,” says Nima. ‘We want to represent the entire product category.”
Just as people say ‘hoover’ instead of ‘vacuum cleaner’, we want people to say ‘Prima Cheese’ instead of ‘pizza cheese’.”
Did you always plan on joining the family business?
Nagma: We both wanted to develop our own careers first – I ran a restaurant in Islington and Nima worked in marketing – but the family business was always a huge part of our lives. My parents moved from Iran to the UK in the late 70s; they started with one burger van and expanded to more than a dozen pizza takeaways across the North East. The quality of pizza cheese was bad and the price was high, so they started making their own. Nima and I were always involved. We didn’t go on holiday like other kids.
When did you start exporting?
Nagma: We’re pizza cheese experts; we didn’t want to diversify our product but we did need to diversify our customer base. So, in 2010, we collaborated with the Department of International Trade and earmarked Dubai as our first export market. Trade and tourism was booming there. Where you’ve got tourism, you’ve got hotels. Where you’ve got hotels, you’ve got pizza on the menu.
What’s your ambition?
Nima: We’ve had sustained growth every year since 2010. We want to continue to grow but we won’t forget where we came from. We’ll stay humble. We know that good isn’t good enough. We have to be excellent.