The Crunch: Walkers Shortbread has employed four generations of workers since it was founded in 1898 in the Scottish Highlands with just a recipe and a 50-pound loan. The business has been handed down through the years while remaining committed to producing the best shortbread from wholesome, all-natural ingredients. And as Walkers Shortbread has added employees and products — growing from a local to a global brand — it continues to place importance on sustainability and social concerns. For its commitment, Walkers Shortbread has earned our Retailer’s Choice Award.
With just a recipe, 50-pound bank loan, and the desire to create the “World’s Finest Shortbread,” Joseph Walker started a small bakery in the Scottish Highlands in 1898. His hard work and dedication paid off; in his first year of business, word spread about his delicious shortbread and demand increased. Soon, he moved to a larger shop in the town of Aberlour and purchased a horse and cart to deliver his baked goods to other villages.
In the following decades, both his business and family grew. Three new additions came to Walkers Shortbread in 1936: cakes, confections, and the company’s first delivery van. Throughout the war, production continued uninterrupted, with the same dedication to quality baked goods that customers had come to know and love. And even as other food manufacturers started switching from butter to margarine, Walkers stuck to its simple, delicious recipe that included rich, creamy butter as one of just four ingredients.
By 1961, the third generation of Walkers joined the family business, which had grown to nearly 100 employees and 14 delivery vans that supplied local stores with Walkers products. Around this time, it also invested in machinery to help meet demand, and by the 1970s it was exporting to more than 60 countries.
The small bakery grew into a brand known the world over for its signature buttery shortbread. Although the original bakery has long since been outgrown, its six modern factories are just miles from where it all started.
Now well into its second century of operation, Walkers remains dedicated to supplying the world with the best shortbreads and biscuits, doing its share to protect the environment, and supporting its employees. For its focus on quality, social good, and sustainable shortbread practices, Walkers has earned our Retailers Choice Award.
From Shortbread in 1898 to Dozens of Baked Goods in 2018
What began as a quest to create the perfect shortbread has led to a company that produces dozens of both sweet and savory baked goods. Varieties of cakes and a line of confections were introduced in 1936. Since then, the menu has expanded to include oatcakes, biscuits, thins, and meringues.
Walkers created a line of gluten-free shortbread to meet the demand of customers with special dietary needs. A special flour blend, made from rice flour, potato starch, and maize, replaces the wheat flour and gives the shortbread the same melt-in-your-mouth goodness as the original recipe. Each batch is tested to ensure that customers can enjoy Walkers Shortbread worry-free.
High-fiber oatcakes are another market Walkers entered to cater to consumer demand. These healthier versions are made with olive oil and wholesome oats while still providing a satisfying crunchy snack.
In 2002, Walkers received a Royal Warrant of Appointment to supply Her Royal Majesty the Queen with oatcakes.
All of Walkers products are free of artificial colors, flavors, additives, GMOs, and hydrogenated fats. The company is certified Kosher and suitable for vegetarians. And as part of its commitment to protecting the environment, Walkers uses dairy products from free-range cows and sources raw ingredients locally, if possible.
Walkers Devoted to Environmental and Social Responsibility
As a large employer in a small area, Walkers takes its social and environmental responsibility seriously, fostering mutual interdependence with the community. Its company policies and initiatives help meet business demands while protecting the environment — and benefiting both its employees and neighbors.
Around 95% of Walkers waste is recycled, factory carbon emissions have been cut by 17%, and its shuttle bus service for employees saves 3 million miles of travel each year. The company’s water-reduction policy saves more than 132,000 gallons of water a year, and since switching to efficient induction lights, which reduce energy use by 50%, Walkers has cut carbon emissions by 600 tons annually. Walkers has also reduced packaging by 10% since 2001. It chooses sustainably sourced raw materials — or recycled ones — whenever possible.
In September 2013, Walkers won the Gold Award in the Food and Drink category at the Green Apple Environmental Awards. The award acknowledged its commitment to carrying out energy reduction initiatives over the previous 15 years.
At Walkers Shortbread headquarters, the grounds are used to give back to the community. Apples from the trees are given to Walkers employees and residents of a nearby retirement home. Schools use the grounds for nature studies, and local youth groups hold camps there. Footpaths are open to community members for walking, cycling, and bird watching. Walkers takes great pride in maintaining the land in a sustainable fashion.
The company has partnered with Europe’s largest conservation charity, RSPB, to create more woodland area through the “Give Nature A Home” campaign. The joint effort will result in more diverse homes for Scottish wildlife.
Giving Employees the Same Importance as its Products
Although it has grown considerably over the years, Walkers Shortbread is still very much a family business, with the fourth generation of Walkers running the company today. But it’s not just within the Walker family that parents work alongside adult children.
Among the 1,200 regular employees — and 450 seasonal associates — it’s not uncommon for multiple generations of a family to work together at Walkers.
Employee turnover is low, thanks to the intensive hands-on training and support that employees receive. The company offers competitive benefits including transportation to the factories and subsidized meals. And, as often as possible, Walkers Shortbread promotes from within.
Roughly a quarter of its employees are foreign nationals, and Walkers offers them an abundance of support to help them become accustomed to the area. The company helps them find housing, set up bank accounts, and even provides training materials in multiple languages.
A Scottish Original: Produced Locally and Sold Globally
Over its 120-year history, Walkers Shortbread has grown from a single location serving locals to a six-factory operation that sells its products around the world. But the small village bakery in Aberlour is still used for research and development.
In fact, before new products go to the production line, they must first pass a local taste test to ensure an authentic Scottish flavor.
Walkers Shortbread, which comes in traditional Scottish plaid packaging, is a familiar brand that consumers can find in retail locations across the globe. And consumers in countries and continents where Walkers Shortbreads aren’t on store shelves can order directly from the online store and get it shipped to their homes.
For its sustained commitment to high-quality products, environmental sustainability, and global brand expansion, Walkers Shortbread has earned our Retailers Choice Award.