AN expanding Eden company this week officially unveiled a new extension at its headquarters to complete a five-year, £2.4 million investment program.
Company boss Michael Bell hailed exciting times as family firm Bells of Lazonby officially opened new facilities at its Edenholme Bakery in the village.
Turnover is forecast to rise by £1.5 million this year to £17.5 million, and its 230-strong workforce will grow with the creation of 15 new jobs. It is also welcoming apprentices and increasing shifts.
Ranked as Eden’s fifth largest non-governmental employer, it has staff drawn from across the Eden Valley, as well as Penrith and Carlisle.
Its current success is attributed to a strong performing trio of in-vogue products, which include artisan bread, cakes for the expanding coffee shop market, and sweet treats for those on special diets, including gluten-free.
The latter are sold in supermarkets as part of the “Free From” range, and it also has a branded “We Love Cake” line and makes more than 100 products, including pies and meringues.
Mr. Bell says the company prides itself on its rigorous testing and development to ensure its gluten-free products are “exactly what they say on the tin”.
Mr. Bell said: “We’ve made Lazonby a centre of excellence for food allergy. There are 14 recognised allergens in the world and we create products that avoid 12 of them. We’ve doubled turnover in the last five years and this year sales look likely to grow in excess of 10 per cent.”
Among the company’s customers are major national high street brands like Costa, Waitrose, Morrisons, the Co-op and Sainsbury’s. Its sweet treats even reach shelves as far away as Europe and the United Arab Emirates. Virgin Trains and cross-channel ferries also stock goodies made in “little Lazonby”.
Michael is the son of John Bell, now aged 90, who was also at the ribbon-cutting. Mr. Bell senior, with his own father. also called John, established the bakery business in Lazonby from humble beginnings back in 1946.
Now retired but still keenly following its progress, Mr. Bell senior commented: “Back then, I remember we had two in the bakery and one in the shop. But I’m very delighted it’s all going so well and it’s good to see another generation coming in. I’m just interested to see what happens next.”
Michael Bell, aged 54, joined the company in 1984 as the third generation to run it. He says that as well as continued investment by the company, it has benefited from supportive government policies.
Mr. Bell is also keen to open its doors to apprentices and has forged a link with Kendal College to create opportunities for young people.
The topics were high on the agenda as the company welcomed prospective Conservative MP Rory Stewart to cut the ribbon on the extension to its “Free From” bakery.
It will allow the company to increase the number of packaging operations and give it more flexibility to cope with its widening range of products and a spike in sales.
It also opened new purpose-built kitchens for product development where the next generation of recipes will be refined.
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