A Family of bakers since 1887
Roberts Bakery is a thriving modern bakery business but it all began in 1887 when Robert Roberts opened a corner shop selling and delivering groceries, including bread, to the local community in Castle, Northwich.
Robert was born in 1857 and began to learn his trade aged 11 when he was sent to Robert Ramsbottom Baker and Flour Dealer in Salford to complete his apprenticeship in bread baking and grocery retailing. From there he worked for the grocery retailer Richard Hall in Knutsford before buying his first shop at 1 Wellington Street in Castle, Northwich.
The business and the family quickly expanded and in 1900 Robert moved to larger premises on Station Road, Lostock Gralam, Northwich and added a small bakery to his shop to cope with the growing demand for his bread.
By this time his only son Frank was following in his father’s footsteps and after completing his apprenticeship he joined the business to work alongside Robert in developing the bakery and delivery service.
In 1920 the business became a true family concern when it was renamed Roberts’ Central Stores (Lostock) Limited and shares were issued to Robert’s wife Mary and their children Frank, Annie, Alice, Ada and Nellie.
Bread baking technology moved on a pace in the 1920’s and 30’s and this period saw the introduction of bread slicers and wrapping machines in the larger bakeries of Manchester and Liverpool. Robert Roberts died in 1936 at the age of 80, leaving Frank in charge of the family business. With competition intensifying and an ambition to push the bakery further, Frank made the decision to move away from grocery retailing and specialise in bread baking.
There was little space for development at the site in Lostock Gralam but Frank didn’t have to look very far to find the ideal location for expansion and in 1937 he bought a bakery in Northwich from retiring family friend Alfred Middleton. The move increased baking capacity dramatically – from 2 to 8 bakers – and profits more than doubled.
By 1941 there were 26 employees and 6 delivery vans supplying over 60 shops in the mid-Cheshire area.
Business was tough during the war years, despite bakers being one of the reserved occupations. Many of the van salesmen were called up to the war effort but,with a lot of hard work from those left at the bakery, the company survived and over the following years a new generation of the family began to get involved as Frank’s sons Alan, Bernard and David joined the business.By this time bread baking had become a fully fledged industry with the plant bakeries of Manchester and Liverpool piling the pressure onto smaller cottage industries. Frank was determined not to fall behind and in 1952 the company moved to its current site and constructed the purpose built‘Red Rose Bakery’, on farmland in Rudheath, Northwich. This new bakery employed 12 bakers,had a capacity of around 600 loaves an hour and was ideally situated for the county’s major roads and also the M6, when it was built 11 years later! To marka new beginning at Rudheaththe company also changed its name to ‘Frank Roberts and Sons Limited’. Business flourished and during the 1950s and ’60s the bakery was extended considerably, increasing capacity and trebling bread production.Sadly Frank Roberts died in 1954 aged 57. The business passed tohis sons with Alan, his eldest, at the helm.
Continuous investment increased bakery capacity to around 90,000 loaves a week by 1962. By 1967 there were over 200 employees and a delivery fleet of 50 vehicles.
By the early ‘70s bread production was running at 3,500 loaves an hour and in 1977 Roberts Bakery began to supply Sainsbury’s with both branded and own label bread. The fourth generation of the Roberts family also began to join the business with Mike and Julia Roberts starting in 1976, closely followed by Lindsay Roberts in 1983.
The company celebrated its centenary in 1987 as a dynamic and successful multi-million pound business.
Never afraid to invest and keep pace with the industry, Roberts Bakery continued to develop and diversify during the 80’s with the introduction of mass bread roll production and expansion into food service and export markets. The demand for Roberts bread began to reach further and in 1993 the first batch of Roberts bread was frozen and exported to Greece. Still an important element of the business our exports are sent across Europe, America and into Asia, even making it as far as Japan.
Today Roberts Bakery continues to go from strength to strength with a mix of branded retail bread, own label and food service business.
The iconic cooling towers at the front of the bakery were built in the year 2000 and bread production now runs at over 13,000 loaves an hour or 1.6 million a week.
2012 marked the company’s 125th anniversary and the pace of change was faster than ever. Summer 2011 saw the opening of the largest site investment to date, comprising a new despatch facility, more than 3,000m2 of extra floor space and a completely updated slicing and bagging operation.
In a tough and highly competitive market Roberts Bakery continued to grow and build for the future. One thing hasn’t changed though – the company continued to uphold the same values instilled by Robert Roberts in his original vision – freshly baked, great tasting products, made with the finest quality ingredients.
2014 saw the opening of the third plant in Northwich helping us to produce even more Soft and Fluffy loaves.