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Baking businessman McErlain rises again with new enterprise two years after administration

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Brian McErlain’s Bertie’s Bakery has created 10 jobs in Magherafelt

Brian McErlain’s Bertie’s Bakery has created 10 jobs in Magherafelt

Brian McErlain’s Bertie’s Bakery has created 10 jobs in Magherafelt

A businessman has bounced back with a new bakery after the family firm he ran with his brothers entered administration.

Brian McErlain was managing director of McErlain's Bakery, known for its Genesis Crafty range, when it went bust two years ago after facing soaring costs including a rapid increase in the price of butter.

McErlain's, which was run by Mr McErlain and up to five of his brothers, was bought over by food industry boss Paul Allen and now trades as Genesis.

Mr McErlain stayed with the company for a few months after its takeover.

But he has now set up a new craft bakery in Magherafelt, creating 10 new jobs - with plans to grow the workforce to 30.

Bertie's Bakery is named after Roberta McErlain, Mr McErlain's mother and the founder of McErlain's Bakery along with her husband, Joe.

Mr McErlain said: "We had been planning to open the bakery for many months when the Covid-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown came into effect, so despite the unprecedented circumstances, we realised we had an important part to play in terms of meeting the surge in demand for fresh food products.

"It's early days and the conditions have been challenging, but the initial customer and retailer response to our freshness and quality has exceeded our expectations."

Henderson Retail has signed up to be the company's first customer with an exclusive deal to supply 23 SPAR stores around Northern Ireland.

Mr McErlain said: "Bertie's Bakery is named after my mother who, along with my father, Joe, were founders of the original McErlain's bakery in 1968.

"Her mantra was, 'Don't sell anything you wouldn't love to eat yourself', and it is that core value which is driving this new venture.

"We have sourced the very best flours, oils, seeds and grains to produce traditional breads, cakes and snacks and new interpretations of old favourites, such as our wheaten bread with honey and yogurt, topped with flaked almonds."

He said the company was initially due to supply 11 Spar stores in the north-west of the province, but the agreement was subsequently expanded to take in 23 branches.

Mr McErlain added: "We have had to double our delivery van capacity and now have four vehicles on the road.

"We're fortunate that the bakery is in a perfect location for quick and efficient distribution of fresh products."

Neal Kelly, fresh foods director at Henderson Group, said: "It is core to our business to maximise local sourcing and support local agri-food businesses.

"Brian's extensive knowledge of the bakery sector, combined with his commitment to quality, value and innovation, are a perfect fit with Henderson's.

"The comprehensive range of products offered by Bertie's Bakery is an exciting addition to our customer offering and we look forward to further developing our partnership."

When his original business was bought, Mr McErlain said: "This is obviously a time of mixed emotions. Sadness that it is now a different family who own the business, but hope for the future and the growth of the Genesis Crafty brand."

In 2012 the businessman was recognised for his achievements in growing the company when he was named a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

Belfast Telegraph