Bertie’s Bakery lands £2m contract

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Bertie's Bakery has gone from strength to strength after being launched in the shadow of COVID. Pic: Bertie's Bakery
Bertie's Bakery has gone from strength to strength after being launched in the shadow of COVID. Pic: Bertie's Bakery

Related tags Bertie's Bakery COVID Northern ireland Tesco sourdough artisanal bakeries workforce

The Northern Ireland bakery - launched amidst COVID in 2020, but capitalising on a 50-year baking heritage - is creating 12 new jobs at its based near Magherafelt following a significant win to supply Tesco.

The deal - worth an anticipated £2m in sales annually - has seen an initial rollout of 12 of Bertie’s Bakery lines in Tesco’s 19 Express format stores in the region. This will be followed by a further 30 lines into 24 of Tesco’s main estate Superstores.

The business - located in Creagh Industrial Park in Northern Ireland - was started by former Genesis Crafty MD Brian McErlain with an investment of $1m. McErlain has learned plenty of valuable lessons during his extensive career in business and food production, but his key takeaway for the venture was ‘don’t make anything you wouldn’t eat yourself’.

“We took a giant leap of faith by entering an already crowded bakery market during an uncertain and unsettling time for business,”​ said McErlain.

“We made the positive decision that our new bakery could play an important part in answering a need for a potential surge in demand for fresh products. Our twin goals were to achieve stand-out and swiftly gain a reputation for the quality and taste of our products.

“Our leap of faith paid off and customer and retailer response to our products and service exceeded initial expectations.”

Within 12 months, Bertie’s Bakery had more than doubled its workforce, increased its delivery fleet, expanded its product portfolio and distribution.

Now, the bakery - which operates from a 15,000 sq. ft. BRC AA accredited site - is again ramping up, creating 12 new jobs to bring its total number of employees to 45. The new jobs are being created in response to the new Tesco contract and involve bakery and sales personnel.

Bertie's Bakery products

Artisanal ethos

“Bertie’s Bakery is named after my mother who, along with my father Joe, were founders of the original McErlain’s Bakery in 1968,”​ said McErlain.

“Her mantra was ‘don’t sell anything you wouldn’t love to eat yourself’ and it is that core value which is driving us today.

“We have sourced the very best flours, oils, seeds and grains to produce both traditional breads, cakes and snacks and new interpretations of old favourites. All our products are handcrafted and hand finished, which stays true to our artisanal ethos.”

Many of Bertie’s products have picked up Great taste Awards, including this year’s recognition for Bertie’s wee sodas and sliced wheaten, which followed the 2022 awards for its big pancake and toaster wheaten.

Added McErlain, “Securing a listing with Tesco marks another significant step forward for Bertie’s Bakery, making our products even more widely available to consumers across Northern Ireland and enabling us to create more jobs locally.

“Furthermore, our central location makes it possible to bake fresh through the night for delivery direct to stores by morning.”

Bertie's Bakery Brian McErlain and Fresh Food Buying Manger at Tesco Sandra Weir
Brian McErlain with Sandra Weir, fresh food buying manager for Tesco

Commitment to consumers

Gareth Morton, head of Category Commercial, NI, for Tesco, said the partnership with Bertie’s reinforces the retailer’s own commitment to consumers.

“We’re proud to support local suppliers and our new partnership with Bertie's Bakery reflects our commitment to continually improving and expanding our offering.

“Bertie’s is a local business with a long history in Northern Ireland and we are excited to be able to provide their products to Tesco customers.”

Bertie’s Bakery’s new 90 products include hot plate goods, baps and rolls, oven bread and scones, cakes and pastries.

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