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The World’s Finest Shortbread
The Walkers story begins in 1898 when the twenty-one year old Joseph Walker opened the doors of his own bakery with a loan of £50 and the ambition to make the finest shortbread in the world.
In the first year of business, Joseph used every spare moment to perfect his shortbread recipe. It was time well spent. Soon, shooting parties from the local estates were making detours just to visit Joseph's bakery. As word spread and demand for his quality shortbread increased, Joseph took the first steps to expanding the business by moving to a larger shop in the Speyside village of Aberlour and investing in a horse and cart to deliver his baking further afield.
During the 30s, the business - like Joseph's family - was expanding. Two of his sons - James and Joseph - joined the company, bringing fresh ideas with them.
By 1936 they had introduced three valuable additions to the Walkers setup: a range of cakes, a selection of confectionery and…the company's first delivery van. Now that Walkers produce could be sold at ever-greater distances the prospects for expansion were looking promising. Then came the war.
Wartime rationing and their commitment to the Home Guard meant that Joseph's sons couldn't develop the business or their range of products as they would have liked. Despite these adversities, however, they kept the business going and their customers happy by supplying them with the same tasty breads and oatcakes to which they had become accustomed.
While some manufacturers began to cut corners by using margarine instead of butter, Joseph believed that people still appreciated the care that went into making a superior product like Walkers shortbread. And he was right. That's why, even after Joseph Walker died in 1954, his sons knew better than to alter a winningly simple recipe consisting of just four ingredients: flour, sugar, salt and that pure creamery butter.
As demand grew so did the business. By 1961, all three of James' children - Joseph, James and Marjorie - had joined the company, making the third generation of Walkers working for the family firm. The workforce was now almost one hundred, and Walkers had a fleet of 14 vans as well as shops in Grantown and Elgin. Local grocers began stocking Walkers products, and the family had to invest in bakery machinery to help them meet demand. Naturally, they baked to the same high standards, simply on a larger scale. Soon their shortbread was on the shelves of fine food stores all over Britain.
By the 1970s, Joseph's grandchildren had begun exporting Walkers shortbread to over 60 countries around the world – all of it still baked to his original recipe, of course.
By 1975 Walkers had outgrown their extended bakery and moved to a custom built factory. This gave us the extra space and facilities needed to develop new products such as our delicious Chocolate Chip Shortbread and specialty biscuits.
Many of the people who worked for Walkers during this time are still with us today; most are local folk who often come from the same family - mothers working alongside daughters, fathers and sons. Community values have always been central to life in the Scottish highlands and the same is true of our business. Now, as a hundred years ago, Walkers test every new product in Aberlour's village shop. Though today our customers are based all over the world, our products are still given their first seal of approval by the villagers of Aberlour. That way we can ensure that each cake and biscuit offers a real taste of Scotland.
Whether it’s enjoying one of our traditional varieties or new products like our luxurious almond, ginger and chocolate covered shortbread, Walkers’ reputation has continued to grow as new customers the world over discover the quality of our baking.
This has been recognised by industry over the years too, with Walkers picking up numerous international accolades including five gold Mondiale medals and the Food from Britain Innovation Award.
Much has changed since Joseph Walker baked his first batch of biscuits over a century ago. But, although we’ve updated many of our methods and are constantly adding exciting products to our range, some things remain a constant; Joseph's children and grandchildren have always remained true to that original ideal – to make the world’s most delicious pure butter shortbread.
In fact, when the family opened another factory at Elgin to produce their popular new range of shortbread cookies and biscuits, it was only on the condition that they would continue using the finest ingredients: plump fruits, aromatic spices, chunks of real chocolate and flavoursome nuts.
As a family run business for over 100 years, Walkers has always maintained its faithful commitment to its home grown roots in the stunning Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands, ensuring a conscious concern for the food we produce, the welfare of the local workforce, working environment and its important relationships with local suppliers and businesses.
Being one of the largest employers in a small area, the Walker family have developed a social responsibility and mutual interdependency with the local community. People are at the heart of our business and it has always been natural for Walkers to operate in a caring fashion by looking after our workforce. Many contemporary attitudes to business are practices that Walkers have been carrying out for over 100 years.
Walkers are continually striving to develop strong social and environmental policies that ensure the Company continues to meet the many international standards for product safety whilst simultaneously protecting the environment and their workforce.
Walkers Shortbread won a Green Apple Environmental Award in the national campaign to find Scotland's greenest companies, councils and communities. Walkers won the Gold Award for the Food & Drink sector.
The award was granted in recognition of Walkers' commitment and progress over the last 15 years in implementing our successful environmental and energy-reduction programme.
As part of a national campaign to find Scotland's greenest companies, Walkers was awarded a much-coveted Green Apple Environmental Award in 2013, recognising the companies commitment in implementing a dedicated environmental and energy-reduction programme which, amongst other achievements, has seen the company recycle 95% of its total waste, reduce its carbon emissions by 17% and make an annual road mileage saving of over 3 million miles through a complimentary bus service for over 600 factory employees.
Walkers competed against more than 100 other nominations in the Scottish Green Apple Awards and were presented with a trophy and certificate at a glittering presentation ceremony at Edinburgh Zoo on 2nd September 2013.
The Green Apple Environment Awards were launched in 1994 by The Green Organisation and have become well established as one of the most popular environmental campaigns in the world. The awards are well established as one of the major environmental recognition schemes, both in the UK and Internationally.
The Green Organisation is an independent, non-political, non-activist, non-profit environment group dedicated to recognising, rewarding and promoting environmental best practice around the world.
The Green Apple Awards are supported by the Environment Agency, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Chartered Institution for Wastes Management and other independent bodies.
Aberlour House is the head office for Walkers Shortbread Limited. It is an attractive category A listed Georgian building and it sits next door to our factories on the edge of the village.
The house was originally a home at the centre of a large estate and was used as the headquarters for the Gordon Highlanders 51st Division during the war. For 50 years it was used as a prep school for pupils going on to Gordonstoun until they incorporated the junior school into the Gordonstoun campus in September 2004.
Walkers have meticulously restored the building, as far as possible, to its former condition and the local community were very pleased to see the building saved for the enjoyment of future generations.
The grounds at Aberlour House also have stables, grazing land for horses and an orchard which produces a good crop of apples for employees and residents at the local retirement home. The gardens are available to the local scout troupe for their annual camp and to pupils from Aberlour High School for field work in rural studies. Over the years Walkers have invested in farmland and woodland in the local vicinity around the village and Aberlour House, to help protect the local environment and take great pride in managing this land in a sustainable fashion.
To maintain the land and gardens around the factories in Aberlour, Walkers employ an estate manager and two gardeners. The woods are professionally managed by Scottish Woodlands and there are footpaths through the trees, allowing access for the local community to enjoy walking, cycling, bird watching, running, pony-trekking and orienteering.
The grounds are rich in biodiversity with a full range of native plants and trees as well as a diverse array of wildlife including such species as red squirrel, badger, roe deer, pine martin, fox, buzzard, heron, woodpecker, bats and owls.
To further support its local environment, Walkers has partnered with the RSPB to support its 'Give Nature a Home' campaign for 2014. With the help of Walkers donation, this campaign aims to create the largest area of natural woodland in Britain, providing vital habitat for many of Scotland's most threatened species.
Click here to find out more about the Walkers & RSPB partnership
Walkers Shortbread has been located within the same small community of Aberlour for the last four generations and several generations of local families have been employed over that time. The Company has a relatively low employee turnover and firmly believes, where at all possible, in promoting from within the existing workforce and providing the necessary training and support.
The Company has a core workforce of approximately 1,200 and this number is increased with the addition of up to 450 seasonal workers during peak production periods. Traditionally Walkers works a 2-shift operation with night-shift and weekend work utilised when required.
Walkers Shortbread is a major local employer in the Moray area, with around a quarter of the workforce being foreign nationals who have settled in the area. In conjunction with agencies, the Company has assisted with finding accommodation, setting up bank accounts and arranging flights. Company inductions, in-house training, health and safety information and general factory instructions are also provided in different languages.
Walkers Shortbread operates four factories in Aberlour and two in nearby Elgin.
An energy efficient, induction lighting programme has been completed for all four factories and floodlighting at our Aberlour site.
Induction lighting uses 50% less energy than conventional lighting and produces a crisp white light, very similar to natural daylight. The bulbs also last for 20 years without replacement. This part of the programme will reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 600 tonnes per annum.
Energy efficient condensing boilers have been installed in three of our factories at Aberlour giving a 40% efficiency saving compared to traditional boilers.
The regional village bakery has been adapted as a test bakery for new product development in support of the business.
As part of the Company’s on-going commitment to environmental improvement Walkers have recently installed 80 solar panels on the roof of the newest factory. They are currently producing clean, green renewable energy for the site.
It is a 20 kW system and is on target to produce an average of 15,000 kWh (units) of electricity per annum. The panels will continue to produce electricity and have a life expectancy of 25 years or more.
This system of PV (photovoltaic) panels will save up to 10 tonnes of CO2e from being released into the atmosphere each year.
Walkers have achieved the following certificates which demonstrate a high level of competence and consistency in each category: