Thomas Tunnock Ltd

Family values

Since 1890, Tunnock’s has been producing exceptional quality confectionery products, including its world famous Caramel Wafer, its iconic Teacakes and much loved Snowballs

The son of a joiner and coffin maker, Thomas Tunnock grew up in the late 1800s in the small South Lanarkshire town of Uddingston. It is there, after leaving school, that he served his apprenticeship at Aberdour Bakery. Having gained a passion for this type of work, he dedicated himself to saving up enough money to purchase his own bakery in the town for the sum of £80 in 1890. With this transaction, Thomas Tunnock (Tunnock’s) the business was formally established.

“Under the guidance of Thomas, and later his son Archie, Tunnock’s operated as bakers and purveyors of quality flour confectionery until the 1950s,” begins the company’s Sales Manager, Fergus Loudon. “It was then that four original speciality items emerged – the Caramel Wafer, Snowball, Caramel Log and Teacake – and consequently, business boomed and several factory extensions followed!”

Today, Tunnock’s makes and sells over seven million Caramel Wafers per week, making it the company’s biggest selling product by far. Tunnock’s iconic Teacakes, meanwhile, come in at 3.5 million sales per week, while its other products – Snowballs, Caramel Logs, Wafer Creams and Mini Caramel Wafer tubs – continue to gain in popularity. “With each of our product lines, what we start with is excellent ingredients, before layering on top superior attention to detail and personal service,” Fergus continues. “There is a confidence that our customers gain when they purchase our products, which, I must add, have never been reduced in size since their inception in the 1950s. They know when they do so, that they will be of the same great quality that they have always been.”

Tunnock’s clearly takes huge pride in providing consumers with a quality product that is also great value for money, and at the heart of maintaining its high standards are its people. “We encourage all of our staff to keep an eye fixed on our products,” Fergus reveals. “As well as having five colleagues working year-round in our quality control department – where they are led by our Quality and Technical Manager – we stress to each and every one of our 600 employees that they too act as quality controllers. We also benefit from having an incredibly loyal team of men and women here, with the average length of unbroken service currently standing at an amazing 22 years. In fact, each year, we celebrate 39the staff who have reached 25 years of service with a night out and presentation of a gold watch.”

Such is the continued demand for its core products, Tunnock’s finds itself in a somewhat unique position of not having to focus too strongly on new product development, instead committing time and resources to meeting said existing demand. Adding substance to this is the fact that company turnover has doubled in the last eight years alone. As such, it has had to constantly invest in plant and machinery to increase production and efficiency, with an example of this being a 20,000-sq. ft. extension to its Uddingston facility that was completed in 2018, at a cost of £12 million.

New machinery
This three-story extension has allowed it to boost capacity by an extra ten per cent, future proofing the business as it grows. Housing top of the line machinery, one of the major new additions to the facility is a state-of-the-art wrapping line, which has markedly increased the speed at which the company can wrap its products. Tunnock’s is now examining a further expansion of 10,000-sq. ft. for future usage.

Increased exports
The Tunnock’s team is well aware, however, that this is an industry that will always be challenging, and in its accounts filed at Companies House in January 2019, it highlighted the competitive nature of trading conditions when posting a ten per cent rise in sales to £58.1 million. This rise has, in part, been attributed to a surge in exports, which grew in 2018 by 25 per cent – to around £10 million – thanks to the company winning a following in markets across the world. “Saudi Arabia is currently our biggest export market by some distance, however we do 41export now to around 35 countries, from Australia to the United States, and from Japan to Germany. Considering where things all began for the business, it really is amazing where you can now find Tunnock’s products today, from Harry Potter Land or Disneyworld Florida, to the film set of a Hollywood blockbuster,” Fergus states.

As of 2019, Tunnock’s continues to be led by its Chairman and Managing Director – and grandson of its founder – Boyd Tunnock, who at 86 years young still works seven days per week (but makes sure to give himself a few hours off on a Sunday to attend church). “Boyd is and will always be an inspiration to us all at Tunnock’s, and under his watch we will do all that we can to ensure that we do our best to keep up with the demand for the products that consumers have come to know and love,” Fergus concludes.