Cheese and Onion Pie by HM Pasties  2100x1400

Source: HM Pasties

HM Pasties is moving into a larger bakery in Oldham after securing £300k in funding from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

The new 1,700 sq ft site, located just outside of Oldham town centre, is more than three times the size of the company’s current production facility in Bolton, which has no room for expansion. A mezzanine level for offices and storage is set to be installed, allowing space for a clean zone for staff entry and wellness facilities.

HM Pasties is a social business founded by ex-offender Lee Wakeham in 2018 with support from the Big Lottery Fund, Forward Trust and the Santander Foundation. It aims to ‘bring out the good inside’ by employing ex-offenders to make hand-crimped shortcrust pastry products, which are filled with ingredients sourced from local prison farms and gardens where possible.

HM Pasties founder Lee Wakeham  1128x1638

Source: HM Pasties

Founder Lee Wakeham

“We are delighted to have secured much needed investment from GMCA that not only enables the business to reach its full potential, but also creates more opportunities for people leaving prison and local people of Oldham, who I know love their pies,” Wakeham told British Baker.

“We can’t wait to get started on the refurb of our new home and hope to be in full production by early March. After what has been an awful few years for food businesses in general, it’s great to be able to share some good news,” he added.

Funding will also provide working capital for new equipment to help increase production capacity, including a new oven, a larger dough mixer, and an automated pastry roller – these are expected to more than triple batch sizes up to 900 pies and 750 pasties per hour.

In addition, new machinery will allow the bakery to extend its product range, introducing the likes of family-sized pies, dinky meat pies, pork pies, fruit pies, and egg custard tarts, as well as launching an economy range.

There are also plans to redesign the HM Pasties website, which is currently more consumer focussed but needs to appeal to the B2B customers that now account for 80% of business. Being predominantly in trade also demands higher levels of food safety compliance, so it is working towards SALSA accreditation at the new factory and investing in systems to assist with this.

Branding will get a refresh too – Wakeham admits it’s “very basic” at the moment – with the objective of a new design being to help explain more about the company’s story and better reflect the quality of products. These includes its bestselling Steak & Ale Pie and Creamy Lancashire, Cheddar Cheese & Mozzarella Pie, both of which are made in collaboration with local brewery Joseph Holt and both of which won golds at the 2023 British Pie Awards.

Pie production at HM Pasties in Bolton  2100x1052

Source: HM Pasties

Pie production at HM Pasties

Turnover has more than doubled in recent years, going from £200k in 2022 to £475k in 2023, with that sales growth trajectory expected to maintain this year. “We are projecting £1.2m for 2024, largely through organic growth but there is also an existing customer base with the bakery we are acquiring,” Wakeham noted.

The workforce is also forecasted to increase, going from its current 12 staff members (three are part-time) up to 20 at the Oldham site over the next two years. Referring to the recruitment policy of hiring ex-offenders, Wakeham said: “40% of our team will always be returning citizens, more if possible”.

Wakeham expressed keenness for his social business to be a profitable operation so it can fully repay the £300k loan at commercial rates. He also intends to channel 25% of company profits to his charity HM Pasties Foundation, which works alongside the bakery to assist newly released prisoners through their journey into long-term stable employment.

While another onsite retail ‘hatch’ (hole-in-the-wall bakery counter) was not part of its immediate plans for the Oldham site, the company is to continue trading at artisan markets across the Northwest, offer catering services, and relaunch its local home delivery service for boxes of frozen pies, plus a click and collect option, once settled.

It will also maintain its hot food stand outside of Etihad Stadium – home of Premier League champions Manchester City FC – and is in talks with catering service Sodexo to supply more football grounds in the region.

HM Pasties hot food stand at Etihad Stadium in Manchester  2100x1400

Source: HM Pasties

HM Pasties’ hot food stand at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester

Several local authority figures commented on the move, with Oldham Council leader Arooj Shah saying she was really pleased to support it and couldn’t wait for them to come. “I’ll be proudly going getting a pasty once they do,” she enthused.

Bolton Council leader Nick Peel, meanwhile, said he was waving HM Pasties goodbye and wishing them all the best for the future in Oldham, adding “we hope that our pasty and pie trade isn’t damaged too much”. Bolton-based bakery consumers can still enjoy the likes of Greenhalgh’s, a family-run chain with 49 shops across the Northwest, and Carr’s Pasties, which opened its fourth outlet in the city last year.