Four baking professionals previously employed by Rathbones Bakery and Harvestime have begun making ‘premium’ crumpets at a factory in Carlisle, Cumbria. Initial production by Lakeland Bake is being frozen off-site for distribution mainly to expatriates in places such as Cyprus, Spain and Malta, said one of the company’s founders, Nigel McKerr. “It’s largely an untapped market,” he said.

The company, which was set up with £250,000 invested by the founders, is now looking for customers in the UK for its Just Crumpets brand, said McKerr. He was formerly group accountant at Rathbones before moving to Harvestime (2005), which bought the Rathbones’ distribution centre in Carlisle.

The other founders are: former Rathbones general manager Paul Codona, who also moved to Harvestime; production manger Andrew Turner, who moved to Cumbrian Seafoods; and Turner’s brother Peter, who had been working as an engineer at Northern Foods.

“It’s a mature market. It’s not a very exciting market,” said McKerr. “But we think there’s room for a premium product.” Lakeland would develop new crumpet shapes and flavours, he added.

Rathbones made 1.5-1.75m crumpets a week, but McKerr said there was demand for 3m a week. Although Warburtons, Allied Bakeries and British Bakeries have increased production to fill the gap in the market left by a fire at Rathbones in February 2005, McKerr said Lakeland was in a different market. “We are not in direct competition,” he said, but conceded other crumpet makers might move upmarket if Lakeland was successful.

He said Lakeland’s crumpets were “light and airy”, with a good toasted section, made on a hotplate that Lakeland designed and built itself.

Lakeland has fitted out its Kingmoor Park industrial estate factory largely with second-hand equipment and there is plenty of room for expansion on the estate, said McKerr.

Carlisle is an ideal location with hundreds of former Rathbones workers nearby for future expansion, he added. Lakeland has just appointed a sales and marketing director, Kevin Wilson, and expects to take on four or five staff in the autumn, said McKerr.