Ena Baxter, food empire icon, dies at 95

Ena Baxter, of the Fochabers-based Baxters food empire. Picture: PA
Ena Baxter, of the Fochabers-based Baxters food empire. Picture: PA
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ENA Baxter, who helped build the Baxters food empire – and was one of the driving forces behind the Fochabers-based firm, famed for its soups and preserves, jams and chutneys – has died at the age of 90.

Last night tributes were paid to Mrs Baxter whose soup ­recipes turned Baxters into a multi-million-pound enterprise, worth more than £120 million.

A talented artist and cook, she worked for the Ministry of Food at the Torry research station in Aberdeen. She married Gordon Baxter in 1952 and spent the next four decades helping him and his brother Ian build the Baxters’ brand.

With her husband, she created a range of tinned soups based on traditional recipes including cock-a-leekie, Scotch broth and chicken broth, which became the foundation of the family’s global empire.

The firm’s cullen skink soup was said to be a favourite of Prince Philip, with the soups on the menu at Balmoral and Windsor. The company was awarded three royal warrants – from the Queen, the Queen Mother and Gustav VI, King of Sweden.

Mrs Baxter appeared in numerous TV adverts, making soup in the family home.

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In a statement, the family said: “The family confirms with great sadness Mrs Ena Baxter passed away on Thursday 15 January. The family respectfully requests privacy at this difficult time.”

Gordon Baxter died in 2013, aged 95, having handed over his title of managing director to daughter Audrey in 1992.

The first Baxters shop opened in Fochabers, Moray, in 1868, when 25-year-old George Baxter, who had been working as a gardener for the Duke of Richmond and Gordon on the Gordon Castle estate, borrowed £100 from his family to open a grocers

In the back shop, his wife Margaret began making jams and jellies with fruits from the surrounding area. A factory was built in 1916 with the family motto: “Be different, be better.” The firm is now known around the world for its soups, sauces, chutneys, jams and marmalades.

Ena Baxter was born near Forgue, Aberdeenshire, and brought up in nearby Huntly. She studied at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen before launching a teaching career.

Last night Richard Lochhead, environment secretary and Moray MSP, said: “I am very sad to hear of the death of Ena Baxter and my thoughts are with her family and friends.

“The business success of Ena and her family continues to be of great importance both in terms of employment and in the promotion of Moray and its communities to the world.”

Angus Robertson, Moray MP, also paid tribute. He said: “I was very sorry to learn of Ena ­Baxter’s death, who has been a huge figure for both Moray and far beyond, having been an iconic face of the Baxters business for many years. My condolences go to her family and friends.”

Mrs Baxter and her husband were leading patrons of the ­National Galleries of Scotland and supporters of Duff House, Banff. Mrs Baxter’s exhibitions at Duff House and in Fochabers raised many thousands of pounds for charity.

In 1994, Aberdeen University awarded her an honorary degree for services to the community and to industry. The following year, she accepted a similar honour from Glasgow’s Caledonian University.

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