The Cumbrian cake business, Ginger Bakers, is celebrating supplying Liberty of London for the first time.
Ginger Bakers of Kendal, whose customers include Selfridges, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Booths, is now supplying Liberty with its award-winning Damson Brandy Fruit Cake featuring local Cumbrian damsons.
“It’s a good British cake, a rich, moist fruit cake with a strong regional story,” said Ginger Bakers owner and founder Lisa Smith.
“It is one of our original products, one of our most popular selling fruit cakes, and has won a Great Taste Award.”
Founded in 2006, Ginger Bakers, which supplies delis, cafes and farm shops all over the UK, prides itself on quality and its locally sourced ingredients.
“Quality is really the key for us. It’s very tempting to try and compete in different markets as there are always opportunities around. Maybe the business could have been even more successful if we had done some of those things.
“But we have always stuck to our core values of quality, sustainability, care, and creativity. We have stayed true to ourselves, stayed true to what we do, and I am very proud of that,” said Lisa.
Ginger Bakers’ suppliers include Hawkshead Relish, Hawkshead Brewery, Lakeland Artisan, and Rinaldo’s Speciality Coffee and Tea. And its latest product – gin, cranberry and clementine fruit cake – launched late last year, features Ulverston’s Shed 1 Gin.
Being a creative team, they dream up a range of different combinations of ingredients, but they also focus on tried and trusted recipes that they know their customers love. They have 35 different cake products, ranging from having a seven-day to six-month shelf life.
“We would love to be the Willy Wonka of the cake world, and we really want to use all the different ingredients we can! But we do make the crowd-pleasers as well. Everyone loves caramel shortbread, so we do ours with caramelised pecans on top, which is palm-oil free.”
Proud to be a sustainable, responsible business which supports the environment and well-being initiatives, Ginger Bakers backs Growing Well, a farm-based mental health charity near Kendal which provides a supportive working environment to nurture mental health recovery.
Ginger Bakers uses Growing Well’s fruit and veg and plans to use its apples for new products this autumn. It also offers work experience opportunities to Growing Well volunteers, so they get a first-hand experience of the business.
“As you mature as a business, you are able to look at things in a different way. Yes, you need to make a profit. But it’s also about being the business you want to be. We invite Growing Well volunteers on work placements. We also employ two people with learning difficulties.
“We have got the business confidence to do that now, to do something useful. It’s not all about the business bottom line. As well as the fact that we make the cake, sell the cake, and are a successful cake business, it’s also about doing the right thing.
“We don’t want to be the next Mr Kipling. We are not going to be the next cake millionaires. We never wanted that. But, by sticking to our principles and our core values, we are doing something useful, and that feels right for us.”
Ginger Bakers now employs six people with plans to expand to ten people over the next two years, with further growth coming from producing cakes for other brands.
“We have unique facilities in that we have a ‘free from’ facility, a separate kitchen with the security of creating gluten-free and vegan products which are also palm-oil free.
“It will continue to be a growing market. We have three vegan products and will be adding a fourth in a couple of months.
“If someone is starting out in a food business, wants to scale up, wants to work with someone who is careful about what they do and the ingredients they use, wants to go national but isn’t ready yet, we are a good proposition as a middle man.
“We are 14 years into the business. We understand the market. And we like to guide fellow food producers who are starting out down this road, as we have been there ourselves and can advise on some things to do and some things to avoid.”
Lisa puts the business’ success down to sticking to its ethos and core values, always putting quality first, and a determination to ride out any difficult times.
“Like any small business, there are always turbulent times when you are starting out. Cashflow can be the toughest issue. But if you stick with it, have faith and utter determination and are passionate about finding a way, you come through.
“You also need to be flexible and always looking for opportunities, always looking towards the future. There will be milestones along the way. Like the first 10,000 mince pies we made for Booths and the first 10,000 Christmas cakes we made for Aldi. But it ends up being about more than that, about growing a sustainable, responsible business.”
Lisa is one of the pioneers of the This Is Cumbria initiative, having collaborated with Maria Whitehead, co-owner and director of Hawkshead Relish, to get it off the ground.
She is delighted to have seen it grow through the leadership, expertise and energy of Jacqui and Keith Jackson of Thomas Jardine and Co. and attract sponsorship from leading legal firm Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors.
Lisa said: “Maria and I spoke because we really wanted to get the ball rolling as we felt that Cumbria was lagging behind other regions in the way it marketed and promoted its food and drink.
“We are passionate about Cumbrian food businesses working together. We have got such fantastic food and drink producers in Cumbria and such amazing venues; it has really grown in the last five to ten years.
“Jacqui and Keith Jackson took it on, which has been brilliant, and we are hoping it will go from strength to strength. Hopefully, we can get a united approach by getting Cumbria Tourism on board, Made In Cumbria, and the Cumbria LEP to avoid there being too many splinter groups.
“I am also on a food and drink innovation programme at Lancaster University, which is providing some great insight. It’s now about how we can bring it all together, working successfully together under the This is Cumbria brand to best help food and drink producers across the county.”
Lisa is a big advocate of attending the annual Farm and Deli Show at Birmingham’s NEC, where she and other This Is Cumbria food and drink producers will exhibit to 30,000 potential buyers from March 30 to April 1.
“In our experience, it is the most relevant trade show for us. I would urge any small business or artisan producer who is looking to sell to that market to give it a go.
“It’s attended by small, independent business owners, cafes, farm shops and deli owners who are like-minded people who totally understand what we are trying to do.
“What’s great for small businesses is that they can take a small space in the This Is Cumbria section and directly reach those markets.”
Peter Stafford, managing director of Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors, said: “We are delighted to support the This Is Cumbria initiative and to help the amazing food and drink producers we have in Cumbria to realise their potential and to fulfil their ambitions.”
Any food and drink business wanting to find out more about This Is Cumbria is asked to visit www.thisiscumbria.co.uk.
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