Lanarkshire - Home to Scottish sugary mainstays Tunnock's Tea Cakes and Barr's Irn Bru
Area also home to Scottish firms Lees, Border Biscuits and Müller Wiseman Dairies
Lanarkshire is home base for a number of brand names that not only make significant contributions to the local economy, but carry a distinctive piece of Scottish identity around the globe, as David Pollock discovers
Every region has its food producers, some of which grow into something big, but in Lanarkshire there are more than most. Maybe it’s something to do with the proximity of Glasgow and transport links around the country, or possibly we just notice what’s going on in Lanarkshire because it’s home to two of the most recognisably Scottish consumables in the world.
Founded in Falkirk in 1875, soft drink producer AG Barr plc, known in corner shops across the nation as simply Barr’s, is now located in Cumbernauld and is so large it’s listed on the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE250. While their range of products is wide – from the old-fashioned Tizer and Red Kola to newer lines Orangina and Lipton Ice Tea – there’s one major reason for their success: Irn-Bru. The bright orange fizzy pop, regarded warily by visitors and dentists, has iconic status in Scotland, with clever branding and impudent advertising campaigns led by Edinburgh’s Leith Agency broadening its appeal across the UK.
Meanwhile, Uddingston is home to Thomas Tunnock Ltd, another company formed as a family business in the nineteenth century. Tunnock’s are best known for making their Tea Cake, a puff of soft Italian meringue on a disc of shortbread, coated with chocolate (the Snowball is the same item crumbed with coconut), and the Caramel Wafer, a chocolate bar containing layers of wafer and chewy caramel. So much part of the experience of growing up in Scotland are they that even their distinctive foil packaging has become a retro fashion item.
Alongside these big hitters others may seem overshadowed, but the region still boasts a number of familiar names. Reduced sodium salt LoSalt and Müller Wiseman Dairies are both based in East Kilbride, confectioner Lees (of macaroon fame) in Coatbridge, while market-leading potato producer Albert Bartlett, which grows and supplies one in five of the UK’s potatoes and is best known for its Rooster range, is situated in Airdrie. Bartlett is also the founder of Scotty Brand, an umbrella organisation which supplies significant quantities of fruit and veg around the country. What links all of the above bar their location are their family-run roots, and it’s no different with Lanark’s Border Biscuits, which has grown from small-scale production in 1984 to a prominent place on shop shelves with a particular emphasis on the oaty and the chocolatey.