From a £50 loan and a Scottish village bakery to an iconic multinational household brand, the Walker’s Shortbread family business continues to grow as it celebrates 125 years of the original recipe. In the last financial year, the business recorded a 16% rise in turnover as export revenues boosted by almost 10%.
The recent sale of commemorative tins for the Queen, and coronation tins for the King, have driven close to an additional 10% in revenue for Walker’s in Australia this year. During the festive season, half a million Walker’s mince pies are expected to be consumed by Australian families and 3,500 advent calendars to be sold across the country.
Walker’s Shortbread director, Sir Jim Walker shared more details with Retailbiz about the role of the Australian market in its success, how he has continued to grow the brand and his vision for the future.
“With Walker’s Shortbread being a family-owned business, I am extremely proud of this milestone. Our family has worked hard to get to this stage, from my grandfather’s small beginnings with a £50 loan and a village bakery in the Scottish Highlands to where we are today – the largest family-owned biscuit manufacturer in the UK with 1,500 staff at peak times. Both our dedicated team and I are extremely honoured to still have the support of our loyal consumers around the world and plan on continuing to develop for another 125 years,” Sir Jim Walker said.
He credits Australia for the significant role the country has played in the growth of the business since its inception in 1972.
“Walker’s shortbread has formed a fantastic goodwill with Australia since we entered the market, with Australians consuming the most Walker’s shortbread per capita than any other market in the world outside of Scotland – three times as much per capita than the US. Whether it is due to a rich British history within the Australian population, or simply their good taste in treats with a cup of tea, Australia has had a big impact on the success of our brand as a multinational business,” he said.
Sir Jim Walker acknowledges that there are many challenges but that’s to be expected, especially in the export business.
“The biggest ongoing challenge for Walker’s and many other companies is the volatility in commodity prices such as butter and flour. These can be affected suddenly by international events and other factors out of our control. We’re always looking to the future to ensure that we are prepared as best we can be,” he said.
Looking ahead, Sir Jim Walker recognises the simplicity of the shortbread – made with only four ingredients – which has been proven to withstand the test of time.
“We will continue to look for any opportunities to create new products, though we have no intention of veering away from our timeless roots that have built the framework of our success, such as the shortbread fingers and mince pies.
“We are releasing our commemorative 125th anniversary tin and are always looking on what might appeal to international and local markets as the landscape evolves. Plans are underway for a major redesign that will land in stores in 2024. It’s set to showcase our ambitions for continued growth for another 125 years, while reinforcing our brand positioning of “Scotland at its finest”. The new look for our everyday shortbread range will still feature traditional Scottish tartan to connect the brand with our origins and the history of the family-run business.”