Here are 10 facts you (probably) didn't know about Scottish confectionery royalty Tunnock's.

There are several essential things most people in Scotland (and elsewhere) are likely to add to their list of things they’d need to survive on a desert island, but we are guessing that more than a few would have Tunnock’s Teacakes or Caramel Wafers written down in the top 5.

Few things made visiting an elderly relative’s better than the obligatory offering of some form of Tunnock’s treats, be it the luxurious Teacake, the delicious Wafer or on the odd occasion the mildly exotic Snowball.

In fact, most Scots would probably have ‘do a Tunnock’s factory tour’ on their list of ‘Scottish things to do before you die’.

It’s the one ice breaker guaranteed to bring any Scottish people in a room together: “What’s your favourite Tunnock’s – the Teacake, the Caramel Wafer, the Caramel Log or the Snowball?”

Almost as iconic as Irn Bru, smoked salmon, haggis or whisky, here are 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about one of Scotland’s best love confectionery companies:

1. The company was formed by Thomas Tunnock as Tunnock’s in 1890, when he purchased a baker’s shop in Lorne Place, Uddingston.

Thomas Tunnock with his son Archie. Picture: TSPL

Thomas Tunnock with his son Archie. Picture: TSPL

The company grew from these humble beginnings into a successful private baking company before striking it rich with their confectionery line.

In a recent interview with the Telegraph, Boyd Tunnock, Thomas’ grandson said: “Between the wars, my father [Archie] was the biggest private caterer in the Glasgow area. I have all his daybooks from 1933 to 1942 – we take them to exhibitions and someone will say, ‘Your father did my granny’s wedding,’ so we’ll look it up and there it is.”

Originally bought for just £80, The company now makes 80 tonnes of caramel each week –  1.5 tonnes an hour.

Caramel is poured out of bubbling cauldron. Picture: TSPL

Caramel is poured out of bubbling cauldron. Picture: TSPL

They buy in around 25 tonnes of coconut a month and around 15 tonnes of cocoa butter each week.

With these ingredients they make between ten and 12 million biscuits and cakes each week, including around 5 million wafers (referenced on the wafer packaging) and 3 million tea cakes.

2.  Tunnock’s sells in more than 40 countries and is extremely popular in the Middle East

The Tunnock's Boy. Picture: Wikimedia

The Tunnock’s Boy. Picture: Wikimedia

The Uddingston-based biscuit company ships to more than 40 countries worldwide and is very popular in the Middle East, with Iraq and Kuwait, making up around 20 per cent of its total exports.

The family baker recently revealed that Yemen had taken delivery of 300,000 Caramel Wafers in the last 12 months alone.

Caramel Wafers are also a big hit in Kuwait, where they are known as ‘boy biscuits’ after the face of the Tunnock’s boy (who has never been named) on the box.

The first products exported by the company were Caramel Logs to Newfoundland, Canada in 1957, while Trinidad loves Caramel Wafers and Wafer Creams and even the Faroe Islands are reported to eat around 125,000 Caramel Wafers a year.

All this success and the company still only has one export sales manager and he apparently doesn’t travel abroad.

3. Boyd Tunnock, inventor of the Teacake has a very special Tunnock’s notebook

Boyd Tunnock with staff on the caramel wafers production line. Picture: TSPL

Boyd Tunnock with staff on the caramel wafers production line. Picture: TSPL

Boyd Tunnock, the inventor of the Teacake, carries a very special notebook in which he has written down all that he needs to know about the family company. The notebook’s contents, which includes all the latest sales figures and company statistics, also has the recipes for his signature creations and ideas for future recipes.

Apparently, he even keeps a small circle in the notebook, drawn onto the inside cover, with which he measures the baked biscuit bases for the Teacakes to ensure they are just the right size.

4. The giant Tunnock’s Teacakes from the Commonwealth games opening ceremony were put up for auction

The Tunnock's dancers at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony. Picture: TSPL

The Tunnock’s dancers at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony. Picture: TSPL

That’s right, you could have bought and owned one of these amazing pieces of memorabilia. We wish we had, just so we could have been as cool as the guy in the bottom right.

The giant Teacakes were sold as exclusive, limited-edition mementos and even came complete with hologram and letter of authenticity.

Tunnock’s was such a hit at the Opening Ceremony that Waitrose revealed that in the weeks following the performance sales of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes soared by 62 per cent!

In fact, the company even reported this year that they made a whopping 15 million rise in tea cakes sold since the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

See also: 

• 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about Irn-Bru

• 8 things you (probably) didn’t know about McCowan’s Highland Toffee

• Tunnock’s drop iconic lion branding to be more ‘British’

5. Tunnock’s have featured on T-shirts, been the inspiration for wedding cakes and have even had some of their products miniaturised for doll’s houses

The Tea Cake company’s clothing collection includes t-shirts, hooded sweaters and beanie hats.

The Tunnock's T(ea) Shirt with the caramel wafer logo. Picture: Tunnock's

The Tunnock’s T(ea) Shirt with the caramel wafer logo. Picture: Tunnock’s

They have also sold cufflinks with caramel wafer logos and a Tunnock’s Rubik’s Cube.

Tunnock’s products have even been miniaturised and sold as doll house furniture.

Dolls house maker Sheena Hinks holds her miniature Tea cakes and Irn Bru creations. Picture: TSPL

Dolls house maker Sheena Hinks holds her miniature Tea cakes and Irn Bru creations. Picture: TSPL

They have even served as inspiration for a wedding cake, with Mathew Watt, 37, and wife Siobhan, 34, going a bit further than the average couple with their love for the Teacake.

The couple spent £395 on this super-sized chocolate sponge wedding cake, topped with red and silver icing to recreate the famous wrapper.

The Tunnock's themed wedding cake. Picture: TSPL

The Tunnock’s themed wedding cake. Picture: TSPL

Mr Watt, an interior designer, told the Scotsman: “On the day, the cake actually got more attention than we did, but that wasn’t a bad thing. We were very happy with it.”

And they are not the only ones to share their love of Tunnock’s on their wedding day, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is said to have commissioned Tunnock’s to make her wedding cake.

6. There’s been an art exhibition dedicated to the company

Tunnocks exhibition at the Glasgow Print Studio. Assistant Olivia Bliss moves the artworks around. . Picture: Robert Perry

Tunnocks exhibition at the Glasgow Print Studio. Assistant Olivia Bliss moves the artworks around. Picture: Robert Perry

In 2010, the Glasgow Print Studio held an art exhibition, Tunnocked, in which artists honoured the humble Teacake as well as its cousins, the Caramel Wafer and the Snowball.

Among the 40 different pieces of art inspired by the delicious products created by Tunnock’s, was one Caramel Wafer which had been placed behind glass for emergencies, so essential was it to artist Harry Magee.

7. Tunnock’s products have many celebrity fans, including several world famous pop stars

Chris Martin, the Coldplay singer, has said of his favourite treats: “You can’t choose between the Caramel Wafer and the Tea Cake – they’re like Lennon and McCartney, you can’t separate them.”

While Howard Donald, of Take That fame, was delighted after fans from Manchester bought him a Tunnock’s Teacake birthday cake which was presented to him on stage in Glasgow.

Singer Amy MacDonald even suggested she’d have loved to have been one of the dancers inside a giant Tunnock’s at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.

8. Alex Salmond once greeted Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch with a Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer and a cup of tea

The First Minister admires a Tunnock's teacake for a photshoot at the Uddingston factory. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The First Minister admires a Tunnock’s Teacake for a photshoot at the Uddingston factory. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Alex Salmond apparently offered a Caramel Wafer and a cup of tea to Rupert Murdoch while he was entertaining the boss of News International at Bute House.

Alex Salmond reassured MSPs during the subsequent FMQs when he was questioned about the visit, that there was no fancy stuff involved. “There were no oysters. All you get at Bute House is a cup of tea and a Tunnock’s caramel wafer.”

We are sure MrMurdoch was more than happy to accept the offering!

9. Tunnock’s once took on the tax man over the classification of their snowballs, and won! 

Workers pack Teacakes at the Tunnock's factory. Picture: Robert Perry

Workers pack Teacakes at the Tunnock’s factory.
Picture: Robert Perry

Tunnock’s, teamed up with rival Lee’s, to challenge a ruling that saw them pay tax on their snowballs, placing them under “standard-rated confectionery”, which classified them as a biscuit.

Judges Anne Scott and Peter Sheppard, from the First-Tier Tax Tribunal, tested a plate of treats including Jaffa cakes, Bakewell tarts and meringues – all classified as cakes for tax purposes – as they made their decision.

Ms Scott then said: “A snowball looks like a cake. It is not out of place on a plate full of cakes. A snowball has the mouth feel of a cake.”She added: “Although by no means everyone considers a snowball to be a cake, we find that these facts mean that a snowball has sufficient characteristics to be characterised as a cake. For all these reasons, the appeals succeed.”

Tunnock’s received a rebate of just over £800k after both companies won their appeals.

10.The company is so successful that Boyd Tunnock is now on the Sunday Times rich list 

With  a net worth of £75 million pounds – the minimum needed to make the cut in Scotland – Boyd Tunnock is now on the Sunday Times Rich list.

And here’s a bonus fact…..

11. Even Squirrels apparently love Tunnock’s Teacakes

A squirrel enjoys a Tunnock's Teacake taken from a bin in Glasgow's Kelvingrove park. Picture: Mike McGurk

A squirrel enjoys a Tunnock’s Teacake taken from a bin in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove park. Picture: Mike McGurk

This cheeky chappy was spotted enjoying a Teacake in Kelvingrove park one afternoon.

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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