A mix of old ‘top secret’ recipes, modern twists and new technology has kept Derbyshire business Stacey’s Bakery thriving for more than a century.

Stacey’s, which has shops in Ilkeston, Heanor and Eastwood, can trace its origins to the First World War. Guy Stacey, great-grandfather of current managing director David Stacey, was shot in the leg while serving as a Coldstream Guard. With the army no longer an option, he opened a bakery in Peterborough.

In the 1930s, the Stacey family moved to Ilkeston and opened a bakery in Bath Street, not far from the site of its current Bath Street store. As the business grew, the bakery moved to larger premises in South Street and now has four shops around the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border.

In the winter of discontent in the 1970s, many of the major bread makers went on strike so there was a massive demand for Stacey’s bread.

“We couldn’t make it quick enough so in the end we just sold the dough so people could make their own bread at home,” says David.

Baker Wayne Hobson, who has worked at Stacey's Bakery for 43 years, puts sausage rolls in the oven  1502x2000

Source: Stacey’s Bakery

Baker Wayne Hobson, who has worked at Stacey’s Bakery for 43 years, puts sausage rolls in the oven

The business still keeps a keen eye on shoppers’ struggles and, with the cost-of-living crisis hitting so many of its customers, Stacey’s sells most of its sweet treats for less than £1. In March, the business told British Baker that sales had risen, with Stacey’s believing that its cakes, cream buns and other sweet treats were being seen as an affordable indulgence rather than a non-essential expenditure.

”We have a long history of traditional products, but adapt and move with the times”

Stacey’s has recently launched two new cake slices inspired by school dinners: the Old School madeira cake slice sprinkled with hundreds and thousands, and a Jam & Coconut Slice.

David says the launches illustrate how Stacey’s has maintained a heritage of traditional baking while reinventing its products with modern twists.

“Four generations of bakers have provided our customers with their favourite and affordable indulgences,” he explains. “We have a long history of traditional products, but adapt and move with the times. Just because something has been done a certain way for a long time, it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.”

The established firm has strong traditions and ethics, which along with a loyal customer base and some ‘top secret’ recipes, has ensured its longevity. While keeping recipes and quality constant has been one reason for the business’ success, it has found ways to use technology to improve production.

Sara Littlewood and Amanda Brown ready to welcome customers to the Stacey's bakery shop  2000x1502

Source: Stacey’s Bakery

Sara Littlewood and Amanda Brown ready to welcome customers to the Stacey’s bakery shop

For example, the bakery’s bestselling product, gingerbread, was once rolled out by hand but is now produced using a specialist machine. Before buying the labour-saving equipment 15 years ago, David flew to the Netherlands to test the machine, with 12kg of the bakery’s special dough in his hand luggage so he could give it a thorough try-out.

“It’s the furthest I’ve travelled with a bag of dough,” says David. “Despite having a few wobbles as I went through security, it was absolutely worth it.”

David says the machine gives a more consistent product and makes it easier to keep the shops stocked – the business sells around 300 to 400 gingerbread people a day, plus many gingerbread hedgehogs, llamas and ducks.

Stacey’s also uses a machine to stamp out the dough for its fruit and cheese scones, which produces a lighter and fluffier product than if they were made by hand.

In contrast, Stacey’s mince pies – which are available all-year round – are made using the traditional method of stamping out the pastry, filling with mincemeat, and adding the lids by hand.

The local community is important to the business, and for decades it has used fresh pork and beef for its sausage rolls and Derbyshire savoury rolls sourced from Martin Ogden Butchers next door to the bakery.

Stacey’s flour has been supplied by traditional miller E B Bradshaw and Sons for “as long as anyone can remember” says David.

“They are a company that has been in business for more 125 years, so heritage and tradition are also important to them.”