NOVEMBER 2016 ;e Costco Connection 55
COMPANY Walkers Shortbread Ltd.
FOUNDER Joseph Walker
Aberlour on Spey, Scotland
ITEMS AT COSTCO
Biscuit Assortment (all year), plus a
Kirkland Signature™ and Walkers
co-branded shortbread tin at Christmas.
QUOTE ABOUT COSTCO
“We’ve worked with Costco for many years,
and we ;nd them one of the most honorable and trustworthy partners that we have.
They are a real pleasure to work with.”
—Jim Walker, joint managing director
built on simple goodness Joseph’s
BY ALISON THOMPSON
WITH A DREAM of baking the world’s finest
shortbread, Joseph Walker opened his village
bakery in Aberdeenshire in 1898. Since then,
generations of family members have
embraced his ideals and, in doing so, transformed Walkers Shortbread (walkersshort
bread.com) into an internationally acclaimed
brand with customers in 90 countries.
By 1920, Joseph
had relocated to
Aberlour in the
of Speyside, and his
sons, James and
Joseph, were working alongside him,
bakery goods and
bread. However, the
was closest to the
founder’s heart, and
it soon earned his company a superb reputation locally.
Walkers Shortbread is still firmly rooted
in Speyside, albeit now operating six factories.
These days, it’s in the capable hands of the
founder’s grandsons, Jim and Joseph Walker,
who have worked in the business for more
than 50 years and are joint managing directors of the firm. Their six children are among
the next generation of company management,
ready to take it forward.
Though family toil is undoubtedly a driving factor in the firm’s accomplishments, Jim
Walker believes the heart of its success lies in
the original family recipe for the shortbread.
“It’s simple and wholesome. There are only
four ingredients, so those ingredients have got
to be very good,” he says. “When you don’t
have lots of other ingredients, like chocolate
and ginger, to hide the taste of the butter, it
depends on using only the very best butter.”
Indeed, the company’s integrity and adher-
ence to quality resulted in its exponential
growth from the mid-1960s onward. Although
the price of butter
rose significantly at
this time, it was
anathema to the
Joseph Walker to
use anything but
butter in the family
of the larger [cookie]
making their short-
bread with vegeta-
ble fat instead of
butter,” says Walker. “People came to us
because they still wanted the very best short-
bread made with butter. We concentrated on
making a good product, selling it with enthu-
siasm, and the company just seemed to grow.”
Since the ’60s, Walkers’ workforce has
gone from 20 employees to 1,400, increasing to
1,700 at peak seasonal times of the year, lead-
ing to a valued social interdependency with the
village of Aberlour, where many employees
live.“We have 150 people with more than 25
years’ service, and the quality of the workforce
that we have is just amazing,” says Walker.
This fostering of long-term relationships
also shows in their supply chain; they have
worked with Costco since its inception and are
proud to be supplying warehouses worldwide.
Each year, Walkers bakes around 30,000
tons of shortbread in addition to a varied
product range, including oatcakes, fruitcakes,
meringues and mince pies. Product develop-
ment is steered largely by customer demand,
and the original village shop is still very much
a part of the business: Its small on-site bakery
now serves as an experimental production
line to test new recipes in small batches, so
locals and visitors to the village shop are per-
fectly placed to get an early taste of new lines.
With its strong community ties, the com-
pany has a profound sense of duty to protect
the local environment and makes regular inno-
vations to decrease its impact on the environ-
ment. Its efforts to reduce packaging, recycle
waste and commit to renewable energy sources
saw Walkers win a Green Apple Environment
thegreenorganisation.info) as one of
Scotland’s greenest companies in 2013. Walkers
also partners with the Royal Society for the
Protection of Birds (
rspb.org.uk) to create an
area of indigenous woodland in Cairngorms
National Park to help endangered species such
as the capercaillie (wood grouse).
“Because we were brought up in the countryside, enjoying and appreciating nature, it’s
natural to want to look after it,” Walker says.
“Speyside is such a beautiful place, we want to
protect it.” C
Alison Thompson is a freelance writer and
photographer from Sheffield, England.
;e Costco Connection
Joseph Walker, outside his original shop in 1898.
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