Belfast Telegraph

Tradition is the key as baker brothers of Genesis gear up to sell 70,000 pancakes

By Rachel Martin

Co Londonderry bakery Genesis expects to sell 70,000 pancakes this week — more than three times the usual sales.

But Genesis general manager David Walmsley said the flour, egg and milk concoction enjoys year-round popularity and not just today, Pancake Tuesday.

Contracts with UK multiples and a taste for pancakes at home both ensure year-round demand for the line, he said.

Genesis, which is run by the McErlain family of six brothers, is best-known for its wheaten bread.

But pancakes overtake even wheaten’s popularity for the four weeks either side of Pancake Tuesday.

Genesis uses traditional methods to bake the pancakes on two industrial hot plates, hand-flipping each one, something Mr Walmsley believes gives them a home-made taste.

The bakery was founded in 1968 by Roberta and Joe McErlain on Church Street, Magherafelt. Mrs McErlain was well known for her motto, ‘never sell anything you wouldn’t love to eat yourself’, something which her sons still try to adhere to.

Genesis makes several lines of pancakes, including chocolate chip, blueberry, giant pancakes, standard six pack and more adventurous flavours such as maple syrup and lemon and raisin.

But Mr Walmsley said that despite the innovations, the original line is by far the most popular. The recipe used for the pancake batter is one developed generations ago by the McErlain family.

In the last three years, the company has won 23 Great Taste Awards.

The company also makes premium own-brand products such as for Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range, as well as lines for Waitrose.

Mr Walmsley said: “We still flip them all by hand and make them in the traditional way so they are still fluffy, and use only the best ingredients so they will taste a bit different from what you would get in a plant factory.”

He said part of the humble pancake’s success in Northern Ireland is down to our willingness to eat them at any time of day, not just at breakfast time.

“They’re so versatile. People will use them for all sorts of occasions. For many markets across the world it’s a breakfast product, but most people here enjoy them as a snack any time of the day.”

Mr Walmsley admits he is a pancake purist, opting for the Northern Ireland favourite — toasted with a knob of butter.

The company sells 20% more pancakes than bread rolls every year, partly because pancakes are heavily promoted in Great Britain’s supermarkets.

Mr Walmsley said: “The supermarkets go to town with promotions. January is a quiet month for bakeries, especially when you are into the new year, and people start diets — but pancake day marks the point at which it starts to pick up again.

“We find the increased sales last for around three to four weeks, around the same length of time that the retailers run their promotions for.

“Promotion cycles tend to last around that time, so we just need to make sure we are able to make the most of it and meet the demand.”

However, despite the pressures to cut cost prices in an increasingly competitive market, Mr Walmsley ruled out the prospect of the firm introducing a cheaper, value range.

He said: “The supermarket buyers know what they will get will be a high quality product they can charge a premium for. You tell them you are talking to the wrong people if you want a cheap product.

“We provide more specialist items and always put the taste of the product first.”

However, the biggest slice of the pancake day action may not be for the bakeries. Mr Walmsley said that companies producing pancake mix and batter would probably see an even bigger uplift in sales around Shrove Tuesday.

“I only make pancakes once a year, but I’ll eat them all year round,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph