Devastated puds firm rises to top

The inferno raged for almost two days, engulfing the city in a pall of black smoke that took the stench of burned Yorkshire puddings into every home in the area.

Even when the water cannon finally beat back the flames, timbers smoked and embers smouldered until rain finally fell.

The fire that ripped through Tryton Foods could have destroyed the firm. Production lines were left blackened and charred, hundreds of tonnes of ingredients were ruined. The company was a virtual coin-toss from closing down for good.

Six years on and Tryton Foods has risen from the ashes. From its 15m home in Freightliner Road it has become the most famous name in the freezer cabinet.

The brand they launched in the wake of the blaze was Aunt Bessie’s – and the firm has gone from strength to strength.

Such is the popularity of Aunt Bessie’s that it comes as something of a surprise when people learn that she only arrived on the market six years ago, the product of a year of research by the marketing team at Hull’s Tryton Foods.

Since then she has become the fastest growing brand in Britain, with multi-million-pound profits.

It is an amazing achievement for a firm that started life supplying a few crates of Yorkshires to Butlin’s at Skegness in 1985.

And it is made all the more remarkable by the way Tryton Foods has risen from the remains of its old factory, utterly destroyed in 1995.

Management admits that in the wake of that inferno, Tryton Foods came very close to shutting its doors, packing away the recipe book and slipping away from the market. It chose not to. Instead the company decided to expand, to launch a new brand that would become a part of every kitchen freezer in the land.

Aunt Bessie’s was born.

Today the brand has passed 50m in retail value, is one of the top 100 brands in Britain and looks set to double in value within the next three years – spearheading a massive growth in the frozen food market.

Recent figures have even shown that if Aunt Bessie’s were taken out of the market, total growth in the whole of the frozen food market over the past three years would fall by 50 per cent.

Needless to say, Hull is rather proud of the factory tucked away down Freightliner Road.

Inside the 15m, state-of-the-art base, staff are creating frozen Yorkshires just like mother used to make. Within the space of two and a half hours the mixture has been blended, poured into moulds, baked, frozen, packed and loaded in crates, ready for shipment all over the world.

It is a simple process, reliant largely on human skills, and saw the production of 400 million Yorkshire puddings last year alone.

All were consumed.

Managing director Brian Young said: “This business and the people in it created the Yorkshire pudding market from absolute zero and it would be fair to say Aunt Bessie’s is the fastest growing brand in the country.”

It took the Tryton Foods marketing department more than a year to create the Aunt Bessie’s brand. searching for a name and image that summed up the wholesome feelings and flavours of the British Yorkshire pudding. They came up with more than 100 possible names.

Aunt Bessie’s could have been Aunt Nellie’s, Aunt Sally’s or even Auntie Pat’s. Eventually the team took a gamble and created Aunt Bessie, sketching out an image of a smiling family matriarch with a bowl and wooden spoon in her hand.

She was an immediate hit.

Site manager David Barr said: “When we put the flames out a few years back it was very nearly the end for the company. A meeting was held and we came very close to shutting up shop. Instead we decided that we would use the fire as a kick-start, to create something special. We’ve certainly done that.

“It’s very gratifying when we hear somebody tell us that they only buy Aunt Bessie’s because their mother used to when they were a kid. They couldn't have done, but it shows the way the character has been taken to heart.”

dave.mark@ypn.co.uk