Mary Berry will soon have her own line of cakes on sale in supermarkets following a collaboration with British baker Finsbury Food.
The company, which is listed on the Aim market, has spent months designing a range of nine traditional cakes with the former Great British Bake Off judge, which will hit the supermarket shelves this spring.
“Everyone loves watching Mary Berry, but not all of us have the time or the skill to bake like her,” said John Duffy, chief executive of Finsbury Food.
Finsbury has the exclusive licence to develop the cakes, which are expected to boost its sales and volume growth this year.
“I haven’t met Mary Berry, I tend to get wheeled out for the bad things rather than the good things,” said Mr Duffy. “But the team have and she has been very hands on. They have loved working with her, tasting the cakes and changing the recipes. She is an icon.”
It came as Finsbury, which bakes cakes, breads and morning goods for supermarkets, cafes, restaurants and wholesalers under so-called 'white label' agreements, reported a 5.3pc rise in pre-tax profits to £7.9m in the six months to the end of December, despite flat sales. The profit increase was thanks to margin improvement, driven by efficiency savings.
Like many companies in the food business, Finsbury has faced a double whammy of an upswing in the price of some of its most important ingredients, such as sugar, cocoa and butter, alongside the weak pound, which has made buying these raw ingredients, which are priced in US dollars, more expensive.
In response, it has cut the number of promotions it runs in supermarkets, increased prices and reformulated some of its cakes.
“No one wants to raise prices, but we have had to,” said Mr Duffy. “Six months ago there was some denial in the industry for the need to raise prices, but that has changed and all our customers recognise you can’t pretend it is not happening.”
Rather than change recipes on existing products, Finsbury has launched new cakes that incorporate fewer expensive ingredients, such as cocoa.
“We launch cakes all the times so as the old ones go, we are conscious of the ingredients we put in the new ones,” said Mr Duffy.
Finsbury has also spent £7m increasing automation at its Cardiff cake-making factory, which will go live this summer. The new machinery does all the mixing, baking and cooling, removing the need for manual labour.
Rather than cut jobs, Finsbury has been replacing staff who retire or leave with temporary workers over the past year.
It has also launched a line of cupcakes with “loads of gooey toppings and bits”, Mr Duffy said, after buying a piece of kit that can make the baked goods.
The company will spend £12m on capital investment this year in a bid to boost manufacturing efficiency and keep profits rising against a backdrop of declining sales.