Jakemans ready for next stage at Sutterton factory

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Take 68 kilos or so each of sugar and glucose and add water and you have the biggest bake off imaginable.

Except it’s not cakes and bakes that are being produced in a factory at Sutterton, but the UK’s second best selling soothing menthol sweet.

Jakemans’ menthol confectionary has been a popular throat sweet since it was launched almost 110 years ago in Boston.

The appeal of the menthol-based sweet has spread worldwide, and demand is now expanding rapidly in the USA, Jakemans’ biggest export market, where the company has set up its own subsidiary.

However, the sweets are also being sucked by people in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and even in the Middle East.

Export sales manager Sonia Cross explains: “It’s not dependent on climate. I think of deserts, sand, dust and air conditioning, so it is the other side of the weather spectrum.”

Export sales manager Sonia Cross, plant manager Tony Bradshaw and product manager Liz Hughes-Gapper. Photo: SG170816-132TW

Export sales manager Sonia Cross, plant manager Tony Bradshaw and product manager Liz Hughes-Gapper. Photo: SG170816-132TW

Jakemans has ensured it will be in a position to meet future growth in demand for its product.

Brand manager Liz Hughes-Gapper says the company has recently bought 6.722 acres of land adjacent to its existing factory on Sutterton Enterprise Park.

The plans are in their infancy and no details are yet known about the size of the new building or the extra staff that will be required, but the expansion will allow the business to meet demand in new markets.

Liz said: “It’s a really exciting time for Jakemans in that we have experienced a lot of growth and it is about expanding into new markets. We have got a very exciting export opportunity and it is just a good story in terms of Sutterton and Lincolnshire.

“There was land available to buy which allows for natural expansion and for us to future-proof the business in Lincolnshire.

“The brand was originally born in Wormgate in Boston in 1907, and the idea was to keep everything close to the heart of where it started because we are proud of those ties.”

Jakemans has seen a huge amount of growth since its 2007 acquisition by another family business, LanesHealth.

That has resulted in millions of pounds of investment in “world-leading, technologically advanced equipment” and an expansion of the workforce from 21 staff to 55.

Plant manager Tony Bradshaw has overseen the rapid development from a business making everything by hand to a fully automated system.

To illustrate the difference that has made to the business, under the old system staff were making 16 tonnes of menthol sweets a week; staff are now producing 17 tonnes a day.

That equates to two-and-a-half million individual sweets per day. Fifteen sweets go into a 100g bag commonly seen on a shop shelf in the UK in the flavours we have come to love: peppermint, honey and lemon, cherry, throat and chest, blackcurrant, blueberry and menthol and eucalyptus.

Part of the £5 million investment has gone into a new stick pack machine which can wrap 1,500 sweets a minute and 150 stick packs (with ten sweets in a pack) in the same time.

Although the 16-hour factory is now fully automated, Tony says what has remained absolutely the same are the natural, quality ingredients used to make Jakemans sweets.

That’s not the only aspect of Jakemans that has remained unchanged. Despite the growth in size and the takeover, the business has retained its original ethos of being a caring family place to work.

To illustrate that, Sonia says Jakemans as a company “do a little bit more than they need to” and Tony backs this up by saying that staff – some of whom have worked at the factory for ten years or longer – have received lots of training.

He says: “We have a motto: the more you learn, the more you earn, and we really invest heavily in the staff with training. We want them always to be ready for that next stage.”

Senior team leader in the factory James Kay obviously thought Jakemans was a pretty good place to work. He was so happy there he encouraged his school sweetheart, Cheryl, to join him in the factory as a production operative packing sweets and doing weight checks.

The couple have been happily married for two years now, and share not just a home together, but shifts at Jakemans’ factory.

• When plant manager Tony Bradshaw began working at Jakemans just over nine years ago the sweets were mixed and cut by hand.

Around six years ago the factory went fully automated and Tony says the first time anyone touches the wrapped sweets now is when they are going from the bag to the box.

The natural ingredients are the same as they ever were: sugar, glucose and water mixed and cooked into a syrup. Once the mixture is cooled, colours and flavours are added.

Process operatives on the factory floor monitor the continuous process of sugar and glucose being automatically weighed before being mixed with water.

The mixture drops into a holding tank before going to be cooked, the steam extracted, and flavours added.

The mixture is deposited into moulds before doing three cycles on a cooling belt and being conveyed to a cooler part of the factory where they are transferred to the wrapping machine. Sweets go into an automatic weighing machine before being dropped into a packing machine which puts them into bags.

At the end of the line, ten packs of throat-soothing menthol sweets are put into a box.