Frank Roberts & Sons Bakery has opened its £2m-plus upgrade of the former Aldreds the Bakers bakery, in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, featuring a state-of-the-art sandwich thins line.

The Cheshire-based bakery bought the site in 2010, and started a strategic programme of investment into equipment, resources and staff, Mike Roberts, deputy chairman, told British Baker

Fourth generation members of the Roberts family - Mike Roberts and Lindsay Occleston - unveiled the new plant alongside Val Custance, Mayor of Erewash this week.

The bakery, now known as Roberts Bakery of Ilkeston, features the new sandwich thins line which started production in July and it also makes a small amount of speciality bread and morning goods.

Roberts explained: “The bakery had been almost a wholesale bakery under Aldreds, so we have completely changed it and added the sandwich thins. Warburtons really trailblazed sandwich thins and Allied Bakeries also produces them, but we are still one of the only plant bakers with a totally dedicated sandwich thins line.”

The new sandwich thins line will “considerably increase capacity” for Roberts, he said, and a further line could be added if it proves successful.

And as the Ilkeston site gets busier, more shifts could be added to bring the bakery up to 168 hours a week production (24/7), creating extra jobs, he said.

Off the line: the thins plant in action

The new sandwich thins line will run alongside the company’s existing fresh bread production operations at its headquarters in Northwich in Cheshire.

Roberts said: “Investment is important for the long term future of our business and we’re proud to launch this new line, which has increased our capacity and created additional jobs for local people. We’re all under price pressure in the bakery sector, but at the moment we are happy with the level of demand we are seeing.”

Val Custance, Mayor of Erewash, added: “This bakery has been a constant presence in Ilkeston for nearly 120 years and it is a key employer in the region. I was absolutely delighted to visit the site and see this impressive piece of equipment. Clearly, it has helped the business to increase production and achieve growth.”

The Ilkeston-bakery had seen choppy times in the past few years after Aldreds the Bakers sold it to the then-cake giant Inter Link. Inter Link went into administration and was bought by Irish group McCambridge in 2005.

The former Aldreds bakery was one of five bakeries in the group which were then sold on to D&G Food Group in 2009, headed by former Frank Roberts & Sons chairman Graham March.

The D&G Group then went into administration and Frank Roberts & Sons bought what had been Aldreds in 2010, securing 62 jobs.

Roberts Bakery started out in 1887 as a grocery store. Now, more than two million loaves a week can be seen rotating in the cooling towers at the front of the bakery. The company delivers to customers throughout the north of England, north Wales and the Midlands.