Making pies has always been in James Sturdy’s blood following his great-grandfather making them for a village store back in 1930. Despite two major setbacks with a fire at the Ripon factory in 2019, and then lockdown impacting their supply chain of restaurants and bars earlier this year, Sturdy Foods is not only bouncing back but taking on more staff.

Looking back to March this year, James Sturdy was faced with yet another challenge as bars and restaurants closed and what had previously been a B2B company faced some major changes. Determined not to close the factory and to support his staff, James made the decision to turn the business round and look for new opportunities, ‘having gone through the fire at the factory the previous year, I was determined to face lockdown head on and keep the factory running. We immediately reviewed the production line, and with some straightforward changes switched our production to oven ready pizzas. It wasn’t an easy time as we then had to completely change our supply chain to deli’s and retail outlets within the Yorkshire area, but the demand was there, and we were ready to fill it.’

The pizza line was such a success the company has also launched a new range of pies, this time selling directly to the public through a dedicated new website. Yorkshire Handmade Pies was born and offers a range of delicious hand-crafted pies made with top quality ingredients. Focussing again on local suppliers and supporting other local firms including R & J’s Yorkshire’s Finest Butchers, they are now delivering their pies for home delivery nationwide.

James advises, ‘we have been overwhelmed by the success of launching Yorkshire Handmade Pies and we have received orders from as far as the Isle of Bute, the Isle of Wight and everywhere in-between. We felt there was a gap in the market for a proper quality made pie, and the increase in online shopping during lockdown helped to fuel sales. It has been a huge challenge changing and expanding our customer base but one that we have thrived on. We are now on a mission to bring hand-crafted pies to the whole of the UK showcasing the incredible quality ingredients we have here in Yorkshire.’

With restaurants and bars opening again at the start of July the next challenge for the company was their ability to continue to supply their previous customer base, which they have again achieved and have now taken on three additional staff, with plans to take on another three before Christmas. James explains, ‘looking back to how bleak things appeared in March, we have not only developed two new lines of business, but also been able to retain our previous customers to support them reopening. Orders are coming in thick and fast as many of the restrictions have resulted in many food outlets simplifying their menus and needing ready-made options.

Our business has grown to the point of having our most successful month to date, which I would never have dreamed of when lockdown kicked in. Our positivity and determination really have paid off and being able to take on more staff whilst so many people are needing work has been a real bonus.’

Sturdy Foods have demonstrated how diversifying their products and responding to change positively has not only got the company through lockdown but made it both a bigger and stronger Yorkshire brand and employer.