Baked with love
As the company heads towards its 70th anniversary, baked goods expert Sheldon’s remains both true to its traditional roots and willing to embrace technology and innovation
Sheldon’s has been baking history since 1949, and the company prides itself on creating mouth-watering Lancashire favourites, using generations-old recipes. Since it was founded, the company has been through a process of continual evolution and development, yet today still remains a 100 per cent family-owned independent business, now employing between 250 and 300 people and operating out of its two state-of-the-art factories in Manchester.
As company director Sarah Sheldon began by explaining, Sheldon’s was established by Harold Sheldon, father of the current Managing Director Graham Sheldon, who with his wife Barbara, purchased the business and built it up into what it is today. Graham, Barbara, and their children Lee and Sarah are now all Directors and work full-time in the business. “There is always a family member around on-site and on the phone day and night,” added Sarah. “The key is to never turn your back and strive to continuously improve.”
While Sheldon’s now manufactures a range of products, it is the Lancashire White Oven Bottom Muffin that really grabbed the attention of the market in the 1950s and it is not only produced to the same recipe today, but has also retained its popularity, maintaining its position as one of the cornerstones of Sheldon’s success.
“In addition to our signature product, the Lancashire Oven Bottom Muffin, we also make the following: four pack large white baps, four pack large brown baps, 12 pack sliced white baps and six pack sliced hot dog rolls, which are both amazing for barbeques and parties, four pack wholemeal rolls, deli rolls, seeded burger buns, fruited teacakes, cheese topped baps and potato cakes. These products are supplied to major retailers including Sainsbury, Coop, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Aldi, Ocado and Spar as well as smaller independents, food service and others,” Sarah highlighted.
Thanks to the popularity of its baked goods, Sheldon’s has seen significant growth in its brand, particularly for the stand out product Sheldon’s Lancashire Oven Bottom Muffin. “2017 has seen us secure national listings for the Lancashire Oven Bottom muffin in two major retailers,” Sarah was pleased to point out. “Our muffin brand has been famous in the north-west region for many years but it is fantastic to see it performing so well down south and further north. The rate of sale per store per week is so high that it is now listed in the central London convenience stores that have very little space and have to keep the range to a minimum. The fact shelves have been allocated for this product when space is at such a premium is a real testament to the performance of this quality, unique and versatile product. In addition to the massive growth in the brand, the sales on the Sheldon 12 pack sliced rolls and six pack sliced hot dog rolls have accelerated, particularly in the barbeque season and recent celebrations such as Halloween and Bonfire Night.”
What links all of these products together are the best ingredients, and while Lancashire is Sheldon’s heartland, it has a global perspective for sourcing, with wheat being used from Europe and sultanas from California. Taking the finest products from both these far-flung shores as well as local farmers, Sheldon’s then combines them with generations of good old Lancashire baking know-how, in order to create the very best baked goods for customers of all ages. Furthermore, this attention to detail on ingredients ensures that a Sheldon’s bap or Oven Bottom Muffin is nutritionally sound and has a pedigree on which customers can continue to rely.
Discussing what makes its products really stand out from the competition, Sarah agreed the right ingredients were essential, but noted that they had to work in partnership with technology and staff. “Graham Sheldon has always believed you only ‘get out what you put in’,” she said. “We have two purpose-built factories that were kitted out correctly from the start, and only top quality machinery is purchased. So, for example, we have made a recent £1 million investment in dough making equipment, along with five new articulated tractor units and trailers to increase national coverage. We have also been looking at robotic automation over the past six months and have invested money in the development with the expectation of moving forwards with this as soon as is practically possible.
“As well as investment in machinery and ingredients, people are key,” she continued. “We invest heavily in the training and development of staff. If the staff are engaged, they are interested, care and ‘buy-in’ to the high standards. We have robust food safety and quality systems in place, which is reflected in the double AA star grade achieved in a recent British Retail Consortium Global Standard Food Safety Audit, which was unannounced! We are also approved to supply a number of the major retailers in their label.”
As Sheldon’s enters 2018, Sarah and the rest of the family have their sights set firmly on the future, as the company continues to meet the growing demand for high-quality bread rolls. “Our goal is to significantly increase the company’s brand growth and exposure by continuing with ongoing marketing activity, securing further national coverage and continuing to offer top quality products and excellent service,” Sarah confirmed. “The long-term goal is to spread the brand in order to maintain a healthy business and keep employing our trained, loyal workforce.”
It is clear that Sheldon’s is enjoying its success, with an increased turnover, growing customer recognition for its products further afield from Lancashire, and a Facebook page full of praise for its delicious baked goods. The company also maintains an active presence within its local community, often contributing to charity and celebrating those who go the extra mile. It looks set to continue on its path of expansion, enabling even more customers to experience its products that are all ‘baked with love.’