The 90-year-old firm employs 38 staff at its new 20,000 sq ft site but only narrowly escaped administration in October 2009 when it was taken over by Leeds-based wholesaler Morris and Son.
Stockley’s moved into its new site in May, and after investing £300,000 on kit such as the new line, a cooling table, brass dies, wrapping and labelling machines, is also benefiting from manufacturing and packaging sweets in one location (it previously operated from two Blackburn sites).
Sales director Kath Lawson told FoodManufacture.co.uk she believed the current nostalgia for traditional sweets such as sherbet lemons, humbugs and pear drops would push Stockley’s “increasing turnover” up to £2.2m by 2011.
This success came after lost business during the recession, Lawson said, when Stockley’s was “trading profitably” but had its banking and accounts tied to previous owner Mr Lucky Bags, which went into administration in September 2009 after Woolworths’ failure.
Although Lawson said that concerns over healthy eating had hit the UK market for boiled sweets, she added that renewed demand over the last two years was keeping Stockley’s busy, given that “boiled sweets are an affordable luxury during a recession and are nice to look at”.
However, she said that production constraints demanded major listings were negotiated with care:“Everything is hand made, and we’re teetering on the brink of 16-17 tonnes per week, with 20 tonnes as our target. We simply aren’t able to make enough of certain lines.”
Lawson said that generic products “people relate to” sell particularly well, but admitted that regional products such as Stockley’s coltsfoot rock – made to a secret recipe using the plant – were a hard sell in Southern England.
And although Stockley’s is known for its traditional recipes, she said the new capacity would allow for more NPD:“We work with clients to reinvent retro sweets and get asked for flavours like Gin & Tonic and Bakewell Tart!”
Private-label sweets for supermarkets represented around 60% of the firm’s business, said Lawson: “Private label margins are lower, but we get high volumes and keep production lines going, although we try not to take too much on.”
Stockley’s also sells to local retailers and cash and carry outlets, and while the firm’s branded sweets are not found in supermarkets they are sold in premium department stores.