Member of the Baxters soup dynasty;
Born: November 3, 1962; Died: September 30, 2013.
MICHAEL Baxter, who has died aged 50, was one of the fourth generation of the Baxters soup family of Fochabers, Moray, now a global company run by his sister Audrey, one of Scotland's richest women. He served as a director and general manager of the company before leaving in 2000 to set up his own Moray-based catering firm, Quest Food Service. providing bespoke menus and recipes, designing hotel and restaurant kitchens and training staff how to use them.
During his time with Baxters, first under his father Gordon, who died earlier this year aged 95, and from 1992 under his sister as CEO, he helped expand the firm, which had started in 1868 in the family kitchen in Fochabers, but became a global enterprise with manufacturing sites from Poland to Quebec and a major presence in the US and Australia.
With his father, brother and sister, Mr Baxter also saw the firm expand far beyond soup to produce chutney, beetroot, pickled vegetables and jam, selling to 60 countries, including South Africa, Hong Kong and the Middle East. Despite its expansion geographically, its reputation remained as a family business and leaned heavily on the famous soups created by his mother and the sauces and preserves made by his grandmother and great grandmother.
When he travelled the world, Mr Baxter was often asked about the secret of Baxters famous Royal Game soup (the company holds a royal warrant from the Queen allowing it to say By Royal Appointment on its cans). He was also constantly grilled about Baxters Cock-a-Leekie or Scotch Broth.
Although Baxters started out in Mr Baxter's great grandmother's kitchen in Fochabers, it was his father Gordon and Gordon's wife Ena who turned it into an international brand. Heinz was reported to be among the multinationals which tried unsuccessfully to acquire it. But Gordon Baxter, a self-styled Moray loon wanted to keep it in the family.
Ena's big breakthrough had come when she saw a recipe for a Louisiana chicken gumbo soup, which influenced several of her own later creations. In 1974, Ena Baxter, the matriarch of the family, published the popular Ena Baxter's Scottish Cookbook, on the cover of which she appeared in a kilt having a picnic in the woods near her home. Later in life, she turned from soup to art and is now a painter whose works are highly sought-after.
Michael Baxter himself generally specialised in the company food services division which, although representing less than 10 % of Baxters' total turnover, was responsible for providing 27 million mini-jars of jam a year to such major clients as British Airways and the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Park Avenue, Manhattan. His expertise led to his appointment as an advisor to Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board), a semi-state company which promotes sales of Irish produce both in Ireland and abroad.
When he left Baxters to run Quest Food Service, he specialised in consulting clients on everything from recipes to drawing up menus, designing and organising kitchens and grooming would-be chefs. He also advised on food law and food hygiene, and on such things as kitchen lighting, wall and floor coverings, refrigeration, utensils and fire safet, working together with local tradesman and the fire service.
Robert Michael Baxter was born on November 3, 1962. Like his brother and sister, he was adopted by Gordon and Ena Baxter, the couple who became legends around Moray, not only for their business success and wealth but for their charity work and support for the family's traditional worshipping place, Gordon Chapel in Fochabers, where there is a stained-glass window in honour of Michael's grandparents William and Esther Baxter.
Baxters now has shops which have become almost more tourist attractions than retail outlets - at their Highland Village centre in Fochabers and in the Ocean Terminal on Edinburgh's waterfront where the Baxter shop's Whisky Safe allows visitors to taste the best malt whiskies from Speyside and beyond.
Why Michael Baxter left the family firm in 2000 was never clear, although he had expressed concerns over top-end bureaucracy cutting profits. He and his brother reportedly supported the appointment of their sister as CEO, not least because their mother Ena had been a driving force in every aspect of the company, creating the soups that become known thousands of miles from Scottish shores. The brothers also stood by their sister when she was banned from driving last year - for a year - after being caught over the drink drive limit. She claimed mitigating circumstances in that her partner was seriously unwell and she had to drive him to hospital.
In his new life after the family company, Mr Baxter had his ups and downs. A beauty salon, Skin Deep Beauty, run by him and his wife Diana in Elgin, went bankrupt in 2007 to the chagrin of customers who were owed money. The couple's Waterfront Restaurant and Bar in Hopeman, Moray, also closed down.
Mr Baxter's family were devastated by his sudden death and did not reveal the cause. He is believed to be survived by his wife Diana and children, his brother Andrew and sister Audrey, and his mother Ena.
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