Belfast Telegraph

Baking craze helps family firm rise from humble start to a £14m business

By John Mulgrew

When Tim Andrew's father, Bill, set up his baking ingredient supply firm in Belfast shortly after the Second World War, he probably never banked on it becoming a £14m-turnover company 70 years later, at a time when BBC competitive baking show Great British Bake Off has thrust the industry into the spotlight.

"Who would ever thought of baking as sexy?" Andrew Ingredients' managing director Tim Andrew said.

The 66-year-old is in charge of the now third-generation family business based in Lisburn, which supplies a raft of ingredients to businesses and bakeries across Ireland.

The firm employs 34 people, and is heading to turn over £14m in the last financial year.

"My father started off a sole trader and was a baker by trade, becoming a technical baker for a supply company," he said.

The business started in the Belfast Docks, before moving to Hillsborough in 1975.

It then outgrew the site, moving to the current Lisburn base back in 2011.

"As I went through school, there was no intention of joining the family business - I never really thought about it," Mr Andrew said.

"I started a part-time summer job with the company and never left."

Mr Andrew's daughter, Claire, also followed in her father's footsteps and began working for the firm.

Andrew Ingredients has steadily grown it's customer base and now supplies a host of businesses.

"It's mainly bakeries and the food industry - bakers large and small throughout Ireland," Mr Andrew said.

The company has also invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in a new test kitchen, allowing customers to visit and work with Andrew Ingredients' own bakery to try out new ideas.

On the increasing popularity of home baking - thanks to the octogenarian baking queen Mary Berry and silver-haired companion Paul Hollywood's BBC series - he said anything that puts the industry in the spotlight helps business.

"Anything that features or promotes baking is good for the industry as a whole," he said.

"We have been going 70 years, and we have grown steadily. But it's certainly not been a straight line over the years."

While the firm has had good years and bad, Mr Andrew said the industry in general has benefited from consistent demand.

"People always have to eat, and we are in the business of supplying ingredients for food," he said.

"We do the full spread, everything you need to make a cake or bread."

The firm is also one of the main sponsors at this year's Irish Food Awards in Dingle.

The business also feels the effects of fluctuating exchange rate, including the weaken euro.

"We buy from outside the British Isles, but we just sell in Ireland. The weaker euro effects us, but we buy in euros to offset that."

And on growing and expanding the business he said: "You can never be content and if you are not planning to grow, you go backwards.

"We are always thinking of, and looking at, new solutions for our customers."

The company celebrated its 70th birthday this year when it opened an extended warehouse and its new test bakery and kitchen at its site in Ferguson Drive in Lisburn.

The new facilities represented an investment of £750,0000. In the last four years, the company has grown its overall business by one-third across Ireland.

The warehouse extension includes four new loading bays and a refrigeration unit. Product development takes place in the test bakery and kitchen.

Belfast Telegraph