Global supply deal for former Shotton couple who revived Britain's oldest biscuit

Reporter:

Alan Davies

An enterprising couple are supplying one of the world’s most famous stores and outlets in Singapore and Kuwait after reviving Britain’s oldest biscuit.

Four years ago James Shepherd and his wife Natasha recreated the historic Aberffraw Biscuit which dates back to the 13th century.

They won plaudits from lovers of fine food when they officially launched it at Llangollen Food Festival in 2013.

Since then the premium shortbread, made from only the finest butter, flour and sugar, has become a firm favourite.

The places you can now buy the mouth-watering biscuit is the flagship Selfridges store in London’s Oxford Street.

To say a big thank you for helping to power the biscuit’s amazing rise to popularity, the couple, who lived in Shotton for a time, are returning to the festival which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

The event, which has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK by the Daily Telegraph and Independent newspapers. will be staged at the iconic Llangollen Pavilion on October 14 and 15.

James, originally from Llandudno, and Natasha, a Welsh-speaker from Trefriw, met at Leicester University, married 14 years ago and have two children Rowan, 11, who is a pupil at Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy in Llanrwst, and nine-year-old Jasmine who attends Ysgol Bro Cernyw in Llangernyw.

The couple were watching the Great British Bake Off in 2012 when a feature about the Aberffraw biscuit, which was first baked in the Anglesey village of the same name 800 years ago, caught their eye.

Taking the same basic recipe from ancient times, they set up a company to start baking and marketing the biscuits.

The following autumn the tasty scallop-shaped treat was showcased for the first time in the new products section of Llangollen Food Festival.

After a couple of years Natasha left her part-time job with a governmental agency to join former journalist James as a co-director of the growing business which has gone from strength to strength.

Recalling how it all began, James said: “We started chatting about hearing about the original Aberffraw Biscuit on Bake-Off and realised that despite the fact we were both from North Wales and lived here all our lives, we had never even heard of it although it was supposed to be Britain’s oldest biscuit.

“After working out our business plan we set up production at a unit in Llanrwst with me making the biscuits and even designing the packaging.

“From the start we wanted everything to be as authentic as possible, from the unique stamp for the scallop shape of the biscuit to the ingredients which include only top quality British products.

“Over the past four years the business has just grown. In fact, the scale of it now gets a bit staggering at times and I sometimes have to pinch myself as a reminder that it’s all really happening.

“We make the biscuits in four different flavours – traditional, chocolate, lemon and bara brith – and they’re all very popular.

“Apart from outlets across the UK, we’ve been selling 500 packets at a time to Dean & Deluca, an up-market chain of stores for their Kuwait branch and Gourmet Grocery, a high-end deli in Singapore, has been taking a similar order.

“After doing a couple of tasting sessions with Selfridges they are now taking them for their flagship store in London’s Oxford Street. Apart from that we’re doing a good online trade through Amazon.”

To cope with the upsurge in sales James and Natasha now have two production units in Llanrwst and employ five staff to help them.

Email:

alan.davies@nwn.co.uk

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