A Scottish pie maker is taking on an entire team of staff to service one single pastry contract.

Lanarkshire-based Bells Food Group, which has 60 per cent of the hot pie market in Scotland, is now to have its puff pastries range sold in 862 UK-wide Tesco stores.

The contract, for an undisclosed sum, is for 5.5 million packs of puff pastry made by Bells, including Tesco Finest butter pastry.

It has taken on 15 staff to service the contract.

Bells, which produces 16 million pies a year and has an annual turnover of around £26 million, employs around 220 operates two bakeries and a distribution centre in Shotts.

Ronnie Miles, Bells managing director, said it is a “fantastic result” for the company.


“We have taken on so far approximately 15 staff, from a technical manager, down to machine operators and general bakery staff but we are looking to recruit a new maintenance engineer and we are looking to take on a new apprentice engineer,” he said.

“Directly attributable to Tesco, about 15 staff in total.”

He continued: “From that perspective it makes investment decisions easier, knowing that you have got that depth of contract behind you.”

He said: “This is a significant achievement for the business and down to the quality of the products, the team at Bells and the trust that Tesco has invested in us to deliver this contract which will double the turnover of our Dykehead Bakery.

“This news follows a successful period for Bells on the back of increased sales and brand innovation which secured third place in Scotland’s top 50 food and drinks brands.”

READ MORE: Bells Scotch Pies win Marks & Spencer listing 

Philip Wilson, buying manager for pastry at Tesco, said: “Tesco has a long history of supporting the Scottish food and drink sector and a long history of working with Bells.

“It’s great to see these two things come together with Bells now supplying Tesco own label across the UK. We look forward to serving our customers across the UK a fantastic pastry.”

The third generation family-owned baker was established in 1931 by David Bell encouraging his son Donald to bake scones and pancakes to sell door to door.

Bells began making pastry when Donald was on holiday in England and saw a packet of ready-made pastry in a grocery store.

The firm said it was not a product that was widely sold in Scotland at the time, and “Donald saw the market opportunity and introduced Bells ‘Special’ Puff Pastry, which was sold to grocery stores, through its retail vans and in butchers’ shops to complement stewing steak sales”.

READ MORE: Popular baker opens first shop outside city 

As success grew and the business developed, more family members joined.

Today it has annual turnover of around £26 million, employs around 220, has 60 per cent of the hot pie market in Scotland and operates two bakeries and a distribution centre in Shotts.

Mr Miles said: “We’ve got very modern equipment but we manufacture pastry to a very traditional recipe.”

However, rising costs for ingredients have had to be absorbed.

“Even putting aside the gas and electricity, generally al bakers have had quite a challenge over the last 18 months in particular,” he said.

“Everything has gone up by substantial percentages.

"I’ve been in this industry for decades and in my career I haven’t seen anything anywhere near the levels of increases.

“Bells is financially robust. One of the tricks was many years ago I was told to surround myself with good people, so I listened to that piece of advice at a very young age.

“So I am very fortunate that I have got tremendous people at all levels throughout this company that are Bells people through and through.

"The product is good. Why did we win this contract? Through combination of quality of product, our service levels to Tesco in general and we are not greedy when it comes to pricing.”

He added: “It is not just taking on new jobs it is securing jobs that are already there – but we do make good pastry.”