The Original Baker specialises in making savoury baked goods for upmarket farm shops and independent delis – the sort of destinations where people like to treat themselves with food above and beyond the norm.
I founded the company in 2017, but my own story in the food industry goes right back to when I worked on my parents’ Nottinghamshire farm as a child. I later became a qualified butcher, opening my own shop, before eventually moving to North Yorkshire, where I began to specialise in savoury pastry and handcrafted sausage rolls.
In 2008, I formed Yorkshire Baker here in Malton, pioneering a range of traditionally-made pastries. Our success was such that we soon needed to upscale production, so in 2012 we partnered with meat processor Cranswick to take the business to the next level. Under the terms of the deal, Cranswick took on the Yorkshire Baker licence and I agreed to stay on as a director for five years.
As an own-label supermarket supplier, Cranswick wasn’t interested in my premises or customer base, so I asked for another agreement to run alongside the main contract, allowing me to sell products under the Yorkshire Baker label to the independent delis.
As the contract neared its end, I faced the decision whether to continue to sell under licence or break free. It was complicated to have Yorkshire Baker products in both supermarkets and delis, so I chose to set up The Original Baker.
I am still one of Cranswick’s Food Hero mentors – so if they or any other artisan company they acquire needs advice about pastry or anything else, I’m on hand. We still operate on the same industrial estate, existing side by side happily. They supply mainly Marks & Spencer – and we work with about 150 delis up and down the country.
A third of the way into working with Cranswick, it became apparent that I needed someone to keep this business going. My strength is driving production, but I don’t enjoy the sales and marketing side as much. That’s when Cheryl Barrett came onboard as sales and marketing director.
She is far better at building and maintaining customer relationships than I could ever be, so we complement each other very well. Together, we now both own 50% of the firm, and we’ve had the courage to invest in it, with the aim of turning it into a £5m business in four years, from our current £1.5m forecast for 2019.
We want to build a brand, but not another Yorkshire Baker. Our focus is solely the delis, and we want to remain a producer of handcrafted, premium products, using time-honoured bakery techniques. We make pastry the traditional way, by laminating the dough over a couple of days. This allows the product to mature, giving it a very distinct flavour.
We also prep all the ingredients. The gristle is taken out of the meat by our two dedicated butchers, and we fill our pies by hand. Using a machine breaks up the meat, and you don’t get the same homemade feeling. We have invested in a sausage roll line, but they are still scored and topped by hand.
All of our products are flash-frozen – allowing the delis the first bake, which is the best bake. No matter how reluctant they were to invest in an oven and freezer at first, they now all say it was the right thing to do, as they get a better product.
Over the last few months we’ve increased capacity by acquiring two further units, which sit next to our existing one. We’ve turned one into a 100-pallet cold store, enabling us to hold far more product and allowing us to deal with the peaks and troughs in demand much more smoothly.
The second unit is being turned into a dedicated gluten-free facility. When I started Yorkshire Baker, we had a really good gluten-free offer, even winning a Deliciously Yorkshire award for our gluten-free pie. However, rules around gluten-free production became stricter, and as we couldn’t guarantee product segregation, we had to stop making them.
The new factory changes all that, and will allow us to enter a huge, untapped market. In fact, we expect much of our growth to come from gluten-free. Once we’ve established that, we’ll use the facility to make some vegan products – our customers are crying out for them.
The final stage of our £750,000 investment is the building of a three-storey office block, including a new product development kitchen. Our sector is much like the sandwich market, in that no matter how much innovation goes on, it always goes back to four or five core ingredients.
With pies, it’s usually steak or chicken. The secret is in what you add to it, and that’s where our strength lies. Our chicken, bacon and mushroom pie, for example, includes fresh thyme, seasonings and a rich creamy sauce, which together add a real intensity of flavour.
The care and attention we put into our products is the cornerstone of our company. This is reflected in our motto, which is time plus passion equals quality, equals The Original Baker. It’s everything we stand for.
Meanwhile, managing director Gill Ridgard and sales and marketing director Cheryl Barrett explain how the time, passion and quality put into their products stems from engaged employees who are enthusiastic about their work in this exclusive video interview.
The Original Baker
Location: Unit 12, Norton Grove Industrial Estate, Scarborough Road, Malton, North Yorkshire. YO17 9HQ
Turnover: £1.5m (in 2019)
Factory size: 1,022m2
Products: Sausage rolls, pies quiche, pasties and pork pies.
Customers: 150 farm shops and independent delis.
Factory output: 25,000–30,000 units a week.
Gill Ridgard: Away from the food industry, Ridgard’s other passion is woodwork. “I love making things. I’ve converted my garage into a workshop, and I spend my weekends there making furniture.”