When Laurence Smith visited the Fatherson bakery, with his wife, on the Arden Forest Industrial Estate in Alcester, Warwickshire, in January 2018, he knew instantly that he had found the business for him.
After many years working in the food industry in a wide variety of capacities, he had a hankering to run his own business and was looking around for an established company he could buy into and build into a leading branded business. Laurence says, “When I came to visit Fatherson I just loved the homemade nature of the products, but also the professionalism of those who had set the business up. The foundations were already in place for us to grow from with a great team already in place around us.”

Fatherson had been set up by – as the name suggests – two fathers and two sons; Kevin and Philip Lees and David and Sean Geary. They themselves had, between them, more than a century of experience in the food manufacturing and retail sectors and this was brought to bear on creating a hugely successful bakery business.
Utilising traditional bakery methods they built a small empire providing sponge cakes, loaf cakes, cup and butterfly cakes, fruit pies, tray bakes and many seasonal products including their award winning mince pies. From their base they supplied more than 1,000 retailers across the UK.
That eye for detail and completely professional approach along with a great workforce was what caught Laurence’s eye. Laurence started his career in the commercial department of food giant Rank Hovis McDougall, with responsibility for, among others, the Sharwoods brand.
After leaving RHM he joined United Biscuits, where he looked after all their household name brands, before joining Unilever and in his last 3 years running the UK marketing as Marketing Director, looking after such brands as Flora, Hellmann’s, Colman’s, Knorr, Lipton tea and PG Tips.
From there he joined E-cloth as commercial managing director to change the world to chemical free cleaning with just water using their clots, mops and tools, eventually setting up a subsidiary in the US and expanding into 40 countries worldwide.

It was while in that job that Laurence set his sights on acquiring his own business, which led him to the Fatherson Bakery. In January this year, one year after he had first visited the site, he closed the deal and took over.
The things that first attracted Laurence to Fatherson are the aspects he wants to push forward with the business. And to help him with that, the four original directors have given him the benefit of their own experience.
The two fathers, Kevin and David, have now taken well-earned retirement. Philip and Sean remained with the business. Philip is working until the end of July as operations director in a transition to the new Head of operations and Buying Lawrence Bowcott, while Sean will stay on as Sales, Marketing & Logistics Director working to ensure sales and logistics run smoothly under the new regime.

There is already in the market a new brand identity and logo for Fatherson, but otherwise Laurence is keen to build on the values that have already made the business a success. He says, “We’re launching a new range of snacks-to-go and gluten-free bars, but the core of the business will remain hand-made and hand decorated cakes, loaf cakes, and pies. Our strategy going forward will essentially be to put out very high quality produce.”
The watchword of Fatherson is freshness… Laurence says fresh ingredients are sourced from local greengrocers and the bakery cracks an astonishing three million fresh eggs every year. Although the products are produced on a large scale, the key to their success is the very “hand-made” feel and taste about them.
Laurence says, “The important thing is that the products taste as if they are home-made. We have over 30 ovens going at any one time and then the products are hand-decorated, replicating as best we can that home-made feel.”

Fatherson products are very popular in the garden centre sector – they are the lead supplier for brands such as Wyevale, Dobbie’s and many others – and also supply retail chains such as Budgens, Londis, Co-op, Spar and Morrisons regionally.
Laurence has big plans to build on the Fatherson brand and take it to new heights. He says, “We have an 18 month innovation programme underway. Part of that will see new products come to the range and ensure our core remains best in class, but it’s also about looking at sales and marketing, how we support our retailers, and how we engage with the end consumer and raise the awareness of our brand.”
The business is located in three adjacent units, one being the main bakery, one the cupcake and butterfly hub, and a head office comprising the telesales, accounts and sales departments and warehousing facilities. Around 90 people are employed across the sites.

They are all hard at work putting into place Laurence’s plans to grow the business. He says, “Our objective is to grow and double the business over the next few years. We’ve got quite an aggressive growth strategy.
“We want to support and continue to supply our existing retailers but also looking at new areas and retailers we can develop all across the UK so more consumers can enjoy a Fatherson cake at home or when eating out.”
Part of that strategy is to team up with other, complementary food brands for in-store retailer events. “For example,” says Laurence, “Perhaps we could get together with a tea producer for an event in stores to create and cake and tea party to help drive category sales. There is strength and logical fit if partner companies work together in this way.”

Laurence is also keen for Fatherson to embrace environmental values, and the company is looking at finding solutions to reduce or even eliminate plastic packaging. They have already made huge steps towards waste reduction – nothing goes direct to landfill from their site.
“There are many more steps we’re looking to take,” says Laurence. “Basically, going forward, we’re all about retaining family values, but we’re putting our heads above the parapet to look around and see where the opportunities are and harness our experience to unlock them to deliver category growth and most important delight our customers and consumers.”