Walls Bakery took an unusual order last week – a request for a batch of 4,000 packs of oatcakes to be sent to Canada.
The company’s first order from abroad was despatched on Friday and is due to arrive in Mississauga, Ontario, this week.
The bakery regularly supplies sweet and savoury biscuits to the mainland but owner Charlie Hodge said they never thought their oatcakes would end up travelling so far.
“It’s good it’s coming from Shetland, I’m quite pleased. We put the product to Scotland but we never envisaged them going so far away.”
The order came from Britgrocer.com, whose managing director John Williams got in touch with Mr Hodge.
Based in Ontario, Britgrocer.com imports and distributes British branded foods for ex-pats and others in Canada missing their traditional British staples from brands like Heinz, Cadbury and McVities.
Mr Hodge said: “He said he was trying to source a small baker that produces oatcakes traditionally. He had seen our website and asked us to price the order. The next thing I knew the money was in the account so we had to do it.”
Mr Williams said he heard about the oatcakes from George Strachan, the grocer who supplies the Queen, and was also impressed by the company’s website.
“We used to source [oatcakes] from Orkney but they weren’t very good, we had a few problems. I spoke to George Strachan and he told me about [the Walls bakery].”
Mr Williams said he was extremely impressed with both the oatcakes and the efficiency with which the order was dealt.
He said: “The product is fantastic. It took three days from me sourcing them, to placing the order to them being despatched – it’s difficult to believe such a small company could give such a fantastic service.”
Mr Williams is originally from Aberdeen and has been in Canada since the 1960s. He set up Britgrocers.com in 2001 with his wife and they are now the only cash and carry type business in Canada. They stock only British brands and are the main stockists of Thorntons chocolate in Canada.
The company has also expressed interest in Walls Bakery’s other products and requested samples of their other Shetland “oatie” products.
Mr Hodge said it was a positive sign for Shetland business, especially in today’s economic climate: “The website was locally done and the packaging is all designed in Shetland. It’s a bit of a boost for the food and drink group and will hopefully give smaller suppliers encouragement.
“It gives you a boost. Something like this is aimed at an upper market so you can set better profit margins.”