Posted in Kafevend Blog
It tastes so good we just had to return to the subject of scrumptious shortbread! Yes, we know it was only mentioned the other day, as part of our look at Scottish treats to go with a cup of tea, but we felt it deserved some space all of its own. It's also a chance to even things up. We recently ran a blog featuring Walkers crisps, so why not redress the balance with the other world class Walkers company, purveyors of quality all butter shortbread.
It was way back in 1898 that a man named Joseph Walker, aged just 21 and with a loan for £50, opened a bakery in the village of Torphins on Royal Deeside. When he wasn't busy baking bread Joseph was working on his shortbread recipe, determined to get the consistency and flavour just right. His perfectionism soon paid off and people began travelling from further afield to buy his delicious wares. Like astute businessmen the world over he seized the opportunity to expand and moved to a larger bakery in the Speyside village of Aberlour. At the same time he invested in a horse and cart so that he could begin to make deliveries to other communities.
In the 1930s he was joined in the business by sons, James and Joseph, who helped to develop the range of products on offer. Despite the challenges that World War 2 presented, the company maintained its presence and went from strength to strength in the years to follow. The original Joseph Walker died in 1954, but his sons, and then his grandchildren and great grandchildren continued to build the business. Ever increasing demand led to more staff and the stepping up of production. By 1975 the company was more than ready to expand into a custom built factory, but Walkers has never been tempted by the lure of cheaper ingredients, staying true to the all butter recipe developed at the close of the nineteenth century.
While shortbread remains their signature product, Walkers have plenty more tasty offerings, perfect for that morning coffee or afternoon tea. As well as an extensive range of oatcakes and biscuits, there are fruit cakes and Ecclefechan tarts, which get their wonderful label from the Scottish town of the same name. Even the shortbread itself comes in many different guises; chocolate chips, ginger and whisky all have a starring role.
There have been many measures of success along the way, a growing export market for instance, but perhaps the highest accolade of all was a request to produce items for Prince Charles' Duchy Originals brand. Walkers' commitment to natural ingredients and high quality products has certainly sealed their standing and won them many awards. While they continue to experiment and add new products to their range year by year, it's still the villagers of Aberlour who get to try them all out first. The village shop receives new lines before anywhere else in the UK, or indeed the world. Perhaps it's this ability to remain grounded, coupled with the sourcing of top quality ingredients, which continues to give their shortbread the edge. And next time you bake your own, you'll know where to turn for a benchmark!