Lees Group, the Scots confectioner that left the Alternative Investment Market last summer, is working round the clock to meet surging demand and creating another 20 jobs in Lanarkshire.

The group is defying the downturn after returning to private ownership under chief executive Clive Miquel, whose father Raymond rescued Lees from near-bankruptcy 20 years ago and led it until being ousted in 2009 at the age of 77 in a boardroom split over strategy.

The group employs 250 at Lees Foods in Coatbridge making its classic snowballs, teacakes, meringues and macaroons, and 50 at Waverley in Cambuslang producing ice cream cones and wafers.

Mr Miquel said sales were up 6% last year and employment had increased by 17.

He added: "The demand for our biscuit products means we are having to put on new shift patterns from the end of this month and employ another 17 to 20 people, which is good for the local community, where a lot of our workers come from."

Profit figures were still being audited, but the group was trading "exceptionally well", he said.

He added: "We now have a production issue, having to work night shifts and overtime to enable us to meet demand, which is a great problem to have."

Mr Miquel said the repackaging of its snowballs and teacakes earlier this year had helped Lees break into the national listings of major retailers.

He said: "We have always had an excellent position in Scotland with the major players but with many of them it was Scotland only. Now we have achieved a national position with two of the biggest retailers and that has had a significant impact on our volume.

"I would like to think it was because of the redesign, which I did, but actually we have been working on this for a long time.

"There are some large biscuit companies out there and some of the retailers have been dealing with the big guys for years and it is the same old offering. We come along with something different and it gives them an opportunity to make their shelves look a bit different."

Mr Miquel, 48, joined Lees in 2004 from the whisky industry where his father made his name in three decades with Bell's. In 2010, his first year at the helm, the group's share price doubled, it broke the £1 million profit barrier targeted for years, and drove exports into France and Belgium.

But the buy-out proposal to take Lees private at 230p a share prompted disquiet among some shareholders, who claimed it undervalued a company that had joined AIM at 200p seven years earlier.

Mr Miquel said: "We started out with an offer price, but the shares kept going up so the premium was diminishing as we neared the endgame.

"Ultimately only 6.2% of the shareholders voted against it."

The management team's £5.6m bid backed by Lloyds Banking Group only narrowly survived challenges in the Court of Session, and it had to give an undertaking that it would not sell the business within two years.

Mr Miquel said: "The whole process was far more complex than we could ever have envisaged, but the business continued to perform well.

"Raising funding for the whole deal from the outset was very challenging. Lloyds were the only players in town but they were very good ... the fact we continue to do well keeps them happy."

He said the team hoped to repay the debt over the next three years, earlier than it was due. The group recently appointed Charles Shaw, another former whisky industry executive, as its non-executive chairman, and has also appointed its first product development director and an experienced new factory manager at Waverley.

Mr Miquel said: "We are going to continue to build Lees as a brand. There has not been so much investment behind it in recent years."

There has been new investment in ovens at Coatbridge and also at Cambuslang, where Waverley achieved an impressive 20% sales uplift last year despite the poor summer.

Mr Miquel said: "They have some listings with food service companies for the first time and have taken a dominant position in the ice cream cone accessory market."