The Wilkin family has been farming the land between Chelmsford and Colchester since the early 18th century, but the coming of the railways saw a switch from arable to fruit production. In 1885, Wilkin & Sons began making fruit preserves, distributed across the nation and exported around the world.
“We’re fruit farmers at heart,” says Scott. “We grow all sorts of traditional English fruit: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, rhubarb, plums – even the curious medlar. We have a jam factory where we make jams, honey, marmalade and condiments, ketchup and mustards. We have a patisserie in Witham, where we hand-make cakes, gateaux, biscuits, flapjacks, and other tasty treats. They supply all of our eleven tea rooms throughout Essex, and we have even made the Victoria sponges for Wimbledon.” The 2010 purchase of fellow Essex company Cole’s strengthened Wilkin & Sons position in the Christmas pudding market, while the tea rooms are a key part of the company’s expansion plans, with an outlet containing a café, tea room and gift shop newly opened in the centre of Chelmsford.
Scott says he can see the Tiptree-branded tea rooms rolling out nationally and even internationally in the next five years, noting “banks can help us in driving expansion of our tea rooms”. As well as trust, he says, “the other thing we appreciate is Barclays’ flexibility. We’re investing in a number of areas across the business and most of the investments we have are very long-term, so there may not be a quick payback. Barclays understands that our business is about long-term steady progress, and they’re happy to give us facilities that encourage our sustainable approach.”