With their origins in a terraced house, the popularity of Wrights’ pies has grown continuously, with the company now making multi-million pound investments and launching sub-brands.
The Wrights story began in 1926 in a terraced house in Stoke-on-Trent, home of John (Jack) and Elisabeth (Lizzie) Wright. Jack had worked as an engineer in the RAF and, after the war, trained as a butcher.
Lizzie was a fine cook who made excellent pies. After a day’s work Jack would visit the market to buy meat and vegetables, using his experience as a butcher to choose the best cuts, and he’d take them home to Lizzie. Jack and Lizzie sold pies to their neighbours and soon customers were queueing outside the front door.
As the popularity of the pies grew, Jack decided to dedicate all his time to the business, making enough profit to open the couple’s first shop in Shelton. From then they continued to grow and opened shops in Hanley, Burslem and Tunstall.
Lizzie died in 1935 and, though heartbroken, Jack continued to devote himself to the business. He found love again with Lillian (Lilly), and they married three years later.
Lilly took it upon herself to learn the original recipes to ensure the product quality was consistent. When Jack died in 1962, there were six shops and outlets, and Lilly continued to run the business with their sons, Peter and David.
Peter’s son, also called Peter, joined the company in 1982, starting as a trainee engineer before moving into the production side of the business and then into sales and marketing, finally becoming the current chairman and chief executive.
The time came that the company needed to innovate and diversify, and following extensive research and the introduction of new legislation, Peter decided to introduce frozen, unbaked savoury goods. It was quickly a success and, today, accounts for around three-quarters of the total business.
A £6.5 million factory opened in Crewe in 1999, and the old factory became the premises for making frozen confectionery products. This meant that Wrights could produce up to 900,000 donuts a week and 30 million cookies each year, but despite modern machinery, the team continue to hand craft the more intricate cream cakes and eclairs to add a personal touch.
In 2014, Wrights commissioned a new 50,000sq ft bakery and invested a further £6m in an automated bakery that was officially opened in 2016, and is capable of producing more than 5 million savoury products every week. The business now supplies its range of products to many of the UK’s restaurant brands, food service distributors and independent bakers, as well as 26 over-seas export markets.
Last year the business launched two sub-brands: Sheaf Street Bakery, which was created following Wrights’ acquisition of supplier Premier Catering; and Urban Bistro, which supplies food-to-go in vending machines.
1926: Jack and Lizzie Wright start selling pies from their home. First shop opens in Shelton, Stoke-On-Trent
1932: Fourth shop opens in Tunstall, Stoke-On-Trent and Jack buys the first delivery van
1982: Current chairman and chief executive Peter Wright joins the business
1999: New £6.5m factory opens in Crewe
2016: Another £6m bakery opens
2017: Wrights launches two sub-brands