Saudi Arabia has taste for Tunnock’s teacakes and biscuits

The First Minister admires a Tunnock's staple at their Uddingston factory. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The First Minister admires a Tunnock's staple at their Uddingston factory. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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STRONG sales to overseas markets, including Saudi Arabia, have seen teacake and caramel wafer manufacturer Thomas Tunnock return to growth with record turnover and profits.

The Middle East, where the Uddingston firm’s markets also include Iraq and Kuwait, now makes up around 20 per cent of its exports to more than 30 countries.

Company secretary Bruce Reidford said that Saudi Arabia had seen a particularly strong performance during its latest financial year.

Managing director Boyd Tunnock first visited the country more than 40 years ago on a trade mission and the company has worked with the same family agent there for many years.

“The agent has developed the market for our products very successfully and the Saudi Arabian economy is also relatively strong which is benefitting us,” said Reidford.

As well as demand from sizeable ex-pat communities in the Middle East, Tunnock’s products are also popular with locals partly due to the fact they don’t melt as easily as other chocolate products.

Sales outside the UK during the year to 29 February rose to just over £7m from £4.6m.

As well as the Middle East, the company saw progress in markets including South Africa and in Australia, where products are sold through the Woolworths chain which continues to operate there.

Overall sales for the year rose 16 per cent to £37.9 million from £32.6m, with sales in the UK up by more than 10 per cent to £30.8m. Pre-tax profits rose by 11.7 per cent to £3.8m.

The growth seen in the last 12 months had come after a difficult 2010-11 when sales had fallen at home and abroad.

“There has been no great magic about this year’s performance. We’ve just continued to invest in our products and markets and seen the benefit of that,” said Reidford, who added that the company will report another year of growth in the current financial year.

New product launches during the year including the introduction of mini-tubs of caramel wafers sold in retailers including Sainsbury’s.

Dividends of £500,000, unchanged from last year, were paid to the Tunnock family who own the business.

The highest-paid director, presumed to be Boyd Tunnock, received pay of £129,756 in the year, down from £132,431, but contribution to their pension rose to £80,000 from £40,000.

Although Boyd Tunnock will celebrate his 80th birthday in January, he still works most days. Average employee numbers dipped slightly to 517 from 529. Average length of service within the workforce is around 20 years.

Thomas Tunnock started the company in 1890 when he purchased a baker’s shop in Uddingston. His grandson Boyd retains the largest shareholding in the business.