Read a previous article: /sweet-history-of-preston-s-chocolate-makers-1-8489912The seasonal treat was very popular and formed a large part of production at Beech’s in its early days, supplying worldwide in the 1930s and 1940s.
Bosses scaled back its production and eggs ceased to be made, as the firm focused on developing its chocolate range.
As Beech’s approaches its 100th birthday in 2020, the firm decided it was time to bring Easter eggs back, replicating some of the processes used years ago to produce its new rich dark chocolate egg, suitable for vegans, and milk chocolate eggs with embedded honeycomb chunks.
Peter Whiting, operations manager, says: “This is the first time in more than 35 years that we have begun to make Easter eggs again. We stopped because we become uncompetitive in price, compared to the other cheaper eggs on sale. But now with a national move to people wanting better quality and being prepared to pay a bit more to get natural ingredients and proper chocolate, we have decided to relaunch our premium eggs.”
Capturing a growing market, Beech’s manufactures vegan friendly eggs.
Peter adds: “Our dark chocolate eggs are vegan friendly. All dark chocolate should be suitable for vegans, but it depends on whether milk or gelatin is added.
“We regularly test the chocolate to make sure we have a vegan friendly product. Our packaging states it ‘may contain milk or nuts, because we also handle milk chocolate and nuts elsewhere in the factory.
“So essentially, we had been accidently making vegan eggs back in our early days as we used dark chocolate.
“It is just that now we are highlighting it for a fast growing movement for dietary reasons and animal welfare and sustainability.
“We aim to cater for as many people as we can. We go out of our way to keep samples and test our chocolate and we make sure our cleansing schedules are thorough.
“Of our 100 products, 40 are vegan friendly and we also have a gluten-free range.”
Beech’s used to make its own chocolate but when the site downsized, bosses changed the recipe specification and it was produced by UK’s main chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut.
Beech’s holds 15 tonnes of chocolate onsite, which is stored in holding tanks and dispersed through heated pipes.
The chocolate goes through a tempering unit which brings the temperature up to 44 degrees, down to 29 degrees and back up to 31 degrees.
The tempered chocolate is then hand poured from jugs into moulds using calibrated scales.
The mould is then sealed and shaken by hand to ensure the eggs are evenly made.
The moulds are placed on a spinner for 20 minutes with a fan blowing cold air.
Peter adds: “Our chocolate is less than 20 microns, making it smooth, like Swiss chocolate. This creates a much more pleasant texture, rather than a sandy texture with higher microns.
“We used to make our own chocolate here but we changed the specification and it ius now made by Barry Callebaut, allowing us to have better chocolate.
“We have a smaller factory now and so we don’t produce nearly as much as we did in the early days. Back in 1933 we made 120,000 eggs. Now we produce 2,500 to 3,000 eggs, meeting the demands of our market.
“We have not moved away from the manual technique because that is where we can have the most control.”
Beech’s Easter eggs and chocolates are sold in all Booths stores, as well as local farm shops, delicatessens and several TK Maxx stores.
Peter adds: “We don’t stock large supermarkets because it kills the idea of a nice local brand. Booths is on our door step and TK Maxx has taken 1,000 eggs, spread out across its stores in the UK and Europe. There is only one egg per store, so you have to be really lucky to get one there.”
Beech’s is now working with the Department of Trade and Industry to get new exports in countries like Mexico.
Andrew Whiting, Chairman of Beech’s, says: “We are going for export markets as fast as we can while the pound is lower. We have seen an increase of sales in America, Australia, Italy, Germany, Poland and other parts of Europe.
“We are going to Mexico at the end of next month on a trade mission as we plan to grow our export business significantly before Brexit.”