The "inspiring" founder of a Suffolk duck meat company which went on to become a major UK food producer has died at the age of 86.

Maurice Buchanan - founder of Gressingham Foods at Debach, near Woodbridge - died peacefully at home on Tuesday, March 5. 

He and wife Miriam founded their business back in 1971 after moving to Suffolk from Northern Ireland and starting their farm.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Maurice built two sheds by hand and started by producing chickens - but the couple soon realised they wanted to try something different - and moved into ducks in the late 1980s and later other niche meats.

They contacted a small-scale duck farmer in the Lake District who had begun to develop a new, tasty breed of duck - a cross between Peking duck and Wild Mallard.

In 1989, 200 ducklings were taken by train from Peterborough and were picked up in Cambridge by Maurice and Miriam who took them to their family farm in Debach.

Over the next two years, the couple perfected the breed and Gressingham Duck was born.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Through Maurice's leadership and innovation the brand became established in the retail and wholesale markets and was a major supplier of ducks in the UK.

The business has continued into the second generation under the couple's two sons William and Geoffrey, who are now group directors.

Today it is a multi-million pound business employing hundreds of staff.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Its Debach headquarters remains - along with a larger operation at Redgrave in north Suffolk.

In 2017, Maurice - by then chairman of the firm - officially opened a new £5m distribution centre at its site in Redgrave accompanied by Miriam and their two sons.

William paid tribute to his father, and said he inspired both him and his brother.

“Dad founded Gressingham Foods in 1989 after moving from farming chickens to ducks in the late 80s," he said.

East Anglian Daily Times:

"The Redgrave factory was acquired in 2007. Through his leadership and innovation the business became established in the retail and wholesale markets, and Gressingham Foods is now the major supplier of ducks in the UK.  

"He was a great inspiration to my brother and I and he will be missed by all those that knew him.”

East Anglian Daily Times:

Maurice was born on January 8, 1938. He was described as a man of "great Christian faith who will be missed by all who knew him".

As well as wife, Miriam, two sons William and Geoff, he leaves daughters-in-law Becky and Ali, and grandchildren Abi, James, Millie, Oliver, Olivia, Maddy and Charlie.

There will be a private family funeral. The family looks forward to welcoming friends and colleagues to a service of thanksgiving celebrating Maurice's life at Easton Grange, Kettleburgh Road, Easton, Suffolk IP13 0EL on Tuesday, April 16, at 2pm.

Instead of flowers, donations to St John’s Church, Woodbridge are welcomed.

East Anglian Daily Times: East Anglian Daily Times: East Anglian Daily Times: