Born & Bread: Birds Bakery, Derby

From humble beginnings to a 65-store estate, Birds Bakery is marking its centenary year with the return of some old favourites and a trip down memory lane.

Birds the Confectioners was founded in 1919 by brothers Frank, Thomas and Reginald Bird on their return from the war, when they purchased an existing small shop and bakery in Derby.

The second site came in the early 1920s, a few miles from the first on Normanton Road, Derby. In the early 1930s, Birds opened its first site outside Derby, in nearby Burton-upon-Trent.

Soon after, business was affected by the Second World War and Birds could only produce a fraction of its usual goods due to strict rationing. This resulted in long queues outside its shops (pictured above), and the business was also featured in a war-time film. 

Frank, the last remaining founder member, died in 1951 and the business was taken over by relatives Reginald and Paul Bird. The latter remained managing director until 1992.

In 1974, Paul Bird wrote the company’s mission statement: ‘To provide customers with the highest possible quality of cakes, pork pies, bread and savouries, at a reasonable cost and with a friendly reliable service’. 

It is that service, quality and freshness that Mike Holling, the current sales and marketing director, believes has been integral to Birds’ success.

Birds launched its well-known caramel doughnut in 1988, and now sells around 14,000 each week. 

The first ‘Expresso’ shop format opened in the Eagle Centre, Derby, in 1998, selling take-away food. This proved successful and was rolled out into other town and city centres, before being discontinued in 2015, when the business rebranded from Birds the Confectioners to Birds Bakery. 

To mark its 100th anniversary this year, Birds revived some of its traditional baked goods from times gone by. It also named WellChild, a charity for seriously ill children and young people, and SSAFA – the armed forces charity – as the chosen recipients of its fundraising, and hopes to reach £100,000 to mark its 100 years in business.

Derby City Council recognised the Bird brothers’ contribution to the city centre with a plaque in the pavement as part of its Walk of Fame, and a new shop opened on Lister Gate, Nottingham. 

As to the future of the business, Birds plans to open five further sites next year and is now looking for alternative locations away from the high street to develop the brand further.

1919: Birds the Confectioners founded

1951: Last founder Frank Bird dies, and the business is taken over by Reginald and Paul Bird

1992: Paul Bird dies and Patrick and Nicholas Bird take over

1999: Birds’ satellite bakery in Nottingham closes down

2015: Birds the Confectioners rebrands as Birds Bakery

2017: Many stores are refurbished as part of a new store development programme

2018: Partnership with local coffee firm 200 Degrees begins

2019: Birds celebrates centenary year and is celebrated in Derby’s Walk of Fame (pictured above)

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