A SUCCESSFUL North Yorkshire business has celebrated its 25th anniversary with the help of a royal visitor.

The Duke of Kent visited R&R Ice Cream’s factory at Leeming Bar on Wednesday.

R&R Ice Cream is the UK’s largest ice-cream manufacturer by volume and has a turnover of £200m.

As well as two other factories in the UK, the group has two factories in Germany and one each in France and Poland. In total, it employs 1,600 people.

However, in 1985, when founded by Yorkshire farmer and businessman Jonathan Ropner, it had just four employees and a turnover of £250,000.

The business began when Mr Ropner acquired Cardosi, a small ice-cream manufacturer at Thornaby.

The name was changed to Richmond Ice Cream and production moved to Leeming Bar.

In 1998, it merged with the Treats Group, entering the lolly market. In 2001, it bought Nestle Ice Cream’s UK business.

In 2007, the business was acquired by Oaktree Capital Management, re-named R&R Ice Cream and merged with a German ice-cream business.

Welcoming the duke, chief executive James Lambert said: “Building up this company from just four employees to its current market-leading position has been a superb team effort and we are delighted the occasion is being marked in this special way.”

During his visit, the duke unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening of a £2.5m waste treatment plant.

The duke said: “R&R Ice Cream is a great Yorkshire success story.”