IT makes a billion cakes a year and with Easter fast approaching, Barnsley’s own Mr Kipling plant - probably the biggest cake factory in the world - is running at full capacity to keep up with demand.

The Barnsley Chronicle was invited to get a sneak peek into the range of new seasonal cakes and sweet treats being produced at the Premier Foods factory in Fish Dam Lane, Carlton, and to see the high-tech production lines in action.

“Easter is the second most important time of year after Christmas, and this year we’re much busier than last year,” said factory manager Simon Wood.

The factory has a core staff of 750 people, which can increase to up to 850 including agency staff at this time of year.
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Before Christmas the factory makes up to 25 million cakes a week, and Simon said Easter sees it reach similar levels with up to 21 million cakes sent out through the doors each week.

“It’s probably the biggest cake factory in the UK, we make a billion cakes a year,” added Simon.

“One of the new lines for Easter will produce 860 cakes a minute. And while some parts are highly automated they’re still made by hand wherever possible, with around 17 to 35 people on the line.”

This emphasis on keeping elements of the production handmade is important for the firm, which started producing cakes from the 54-acre site - formerly a colliery - in 1975.

And Simon, who started as an apprentice in the 1980s before working his way up the company ladder, said investing in staff from the local area was a key part of the factory’s success.

He said: “It gives us the opportunity to invest in the local community. Next to the NHS I’d say we’re one of the biggest employers in Barnsley.

“And we’ve got an average service of well over 25 years, which we’re hugely proud of.

“We’re proud of our industrial heritage and proud of this site. We’ve got two other sites but this is the biggest.

“We continue to invest each year to keep ourselves ahead of the game, investing into the factory and into the local area.”

And the firm also continues to invest in its product range - this year, staff will produce new seasonal lemonade and elderflower slices, egg fancies and lemon whirls.

Staying on top of trends is a key target for the company - and Simon said that as people’s tastes get more varied, it becomes more of a challenge to continue to match demand.

“We’re trying to make things more interesting every year aside from our core products and tap into new trends,” he added.

“Easter is a family event and we’re trying to tap into that, but we also want to keep the quality people expect.”