Four-year contract leads to creation of 25 new jobs at Skipton company

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Managing director William Whitaker in the factory Managing director William Whitaker in the factory

A £10m contract to produce mint crisps for a top brand has created 25 new jobs at Skipton-based chocolate firm Whitakers Chocolates.

The 120-year-old family-run business has won a contract worth around £2.5m a year over the next four years as the sole supplier of mint crisps for Elizabeth Shaw, one of the oldest British confectionery companies.

Production of the first batch for the Bristol-based company began last night, with the goods being packed and dispatched today. The new recruits are working on the five-hour, overnight manufacture and packing of the mints.

Whitakers, which specialises in producing after-dinner chocolates for the catering and retail sectors under its own name and also under supermarkets’ and wholesalers’ own labels, has invested £200,000 setting up new lines dedicated to the Elizabeth Shaw production.

Following four months of development work, Whitakers will produce 300,000 mint crisps a day.

Managing director William Whitaker, the fourth generation of his family to be involved in the business, said: “This is fantastic news for the local community, not only securing the future of our current 115-strong workforce, but also creating 25 more jobs.

“The volatility of cocoa prices made 2009 a tough year for us, but this major contract will provide stability and help us to continue to develop our niche chocolate business. Elizabeth Shaw is one of the leading brands of after-dinner chocolates and its mints crisps account for the largest percentage of its sales.

“It’s great for two of the country’s oldest chocolate makers to be joining forces. Once fully operational, we will be producing close to two million chocolates a day and we expect our turnover to be close to £11m this year.”

Whitakers Chocolates is one of the leading suppliers of personalised chocolates to hotels and restaurants nationwide.

Mr Whitaker said: “We had some major capital expenditure ten years ago to introduce a new product line. Things have been a bit quieter on the investment front in recent years so this contract has come at a good time as we’ve been in a position to gear up for it and invest in new equipment.

“Being a family-owned business gives us the flexibility to take the right decision and adjust our operations according to market conditions.

“The recession caused a sharp fall in demand from the hotel trade but we were able to make up for it with retail sales.

“Our core business is stronger than it has ever been and after being around for 120 years, we’re determined to be around for a long time yet.”

Whitakers Chocolates has developed from a grocery and drapery store business established by John and Rebecca Whitaker in 1889 at Cross Hills. It is now a leading supplier of confectionery for the trade and retail markets in the UK and Scandinavia.

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