The Hull bakery churning out millions of mince pies for Christmas

A major cake and dessert manufacturer in Hull has had its work cut out ahead of the festive rush for sweet treats.

BBF Limited is a maker of one of the Christmas mainstays, the mince pie, and has produced a whopping 115m of them to meet demand this coming Yuletide season.

The manufacture of such a monster amount of pies takes about 2,200 tonnes of mincemeat and, if laid side by side, all the mince pies made by BBF in a season would stretch 4,500 miles, or further than the distance between Hull and Barbados.

Jonathan Lill, chief executive of BBF, said: “We have been pulling out all the stops this year by providing consumers with an array of new and exciting takes on the classic festive treat we all know and love.”

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The traditional mince pie makes up the vast majority of the volume produced by BBF Limited
The traditional mince pie makes up the vast majority of the volume produced by BBF Limited
(Image: BBF Limited)

BBF, which operates four bakeries across the North of England and one in Poland, supplies the majority of the UK’s main retailers, including M&S, Tesco and Asda, with their premium mince pie ranges.

“We have been working on a wide variety of different flavoured mince pies for the past few months,” said Mr Lill, whose own Christmas feasting will include a mince pie or two, enjoyed with a glass of mulled wine.

“We are predicting the biggest trends for Christmas 2020 mince pies will be salted caramel, a delicious, modern twist on the classic mince pie, with a gooey salted caramel centre alongside the traditional mincemeat filling, and vegan mince pies.

“As some consumers transition to a vegan diet, sales in plant-based mince pies are expected to grow this festive season,” he said.

Another modern twist on the traditional is the speculoos mince pie, with spiced shortcrust biscuit, originating in the Netherlands, added to the classic recipe.

“Different toppings rather than the traditional pastry lid are growing in popularity.”

Production, which began in May, is all but finished for this Christmas, with BBF well into the planning for 2021 and already presenting new ideas to retailers.

Jonathan Lill, chief executive, BBF Limited
Jonathan Lill, chief executive, BBF Limited
(Image: Peter Brett)

“We do Christmas cakes as well for all the UK major retailers and we have seen some growing trends for alternative Christmas cakes, not just fruit cakes, so we are producing novelty Christmas cakes, chocolate alternatives and centrepiece cakes,” said Mr Lill.

BBF, which also makes chilled desserts as well as cakes – it produces more than 600 million of them annually – was revealed as one of Britain’s leading mid-market private companies with the biggest sales, in the annual Sunday Times PwC Top Track 250, earlier this year.

After doubling sales in two years, the company was on a significant pre-pandemic growth trajectory.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, BBF has remained committed to supporting various charitable causes, including the NHS, to which it donated 25,000 cakes to hospitals across Hull, Bradford and Blackburn, where its bakeries are based.

Mr Lill said, depending on how the coronavirus restrictions continued, there may be more demand for Christmas fare that consumers could enjoy at home; on the flipside, larger gatherings looked unlikely, which might see volumes going down.

“After the challenging year consumers have had, due to the impact of the pandemic, many are looking to create the best Christmas experience possible this year – but on a more manageable budget, given the current economic climate,” he said.

“As spending habits continue to evolve, the trend for great value indulgent treats, like mince pies, is expected to remain popular through the festive period and beyond.”

BBF is owned by private equity firm, Endless, which purchased the business in 2015.

In 2018, Endless supported the acquisition of Greencore’s Cakes & Desserts Division in Hull, increasing capability and capacity in cake, and adding chilled dessert opportunities while doubling turnover.

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