Bill Thurston at Roberts Bakery

Source: Frank Roberts & Sons

Bill Thurston has more than 30 years’ experience in the food sector

Innovation and sustainability are set to be key objectives for Frank Roberts & Sons under new managing director Bill Thurston.

Industry veteran Thurston plans to focus on creating more added-value products under the Roberts Bakery brand and developing Roberts’ own-label business.

Thurston, who joined Roberts last month, has more than 30 years’ experience in the food sector, much of that in the baking industry. He has held roles including managing director of Dawn Foods, CEO of BFP Wholesale and senior vice president of CSM Ingredients.

“I want to share the good practices I have learnt and capitalise on the experiences I have had,” he said. “Roberts has over 130 years of baking heritage. We want to build on that heritage and take it to a wider customer base across the UK, while maintaining and developing our heartland customers.”

Operating bakeries in Cheshire and Derbyshire, the business employs more than 750 people and supplies a range of retail, own label, food to-go and foodservice customers.

Thurston’s appointments came as Roberts secured an £18m cash injection through an asset-based lending facility provided by Wells Fargo.

He said the funding meant the business could invest in equipment to meet its growth plans and improve existing site and plant capabilities.

“We are focused on building a sustainable business with a road map to deliver our emissions targets, investing in innovation that meets and exceeds today’s requirements and provides exciting products for the future,” Thurston explained.

Commenting on the inflationary pressures facing the baking industry, he said Roberts would continue to work closely with suppliers and customers to remain as competitive as possible.

Roberts’ deputy chairman Mike Roberts welcomed Thurston to the post and said his experience in the baking and wider food industry would help the business achieve greater stability and growth in these challenging times.

Prior to Thurston’s appointment, Roberts was led by interim transformation director Mark Cooper, who joined the firm in late 2021 to replace MD Graham Hunter.