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Sunday Mail (UK) "Viva La Teacake"


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Viva La Teacake


Jun 1 2008 By Billy Sloan

Coldplay's Chris Says Tunnock's Are Tops Exclusive


COLDPLAY frontman Chris Martin has revealed his secret passion - for Tunnock's teacakes and caramel wafers.


The singer has even penned a musical tribute to his favourite treats...and I helped him write it.


I met Chris, guitarist Jonny Buckland and bassist Guy Berryman to talk about their brilliant new album, Viva La Vida, out on June 17.


It was recorded at their new HQ in a former London bakery - so inevitably the chat turned to Chris' favourite cakes.


The superstar stunned me with the most blatant piece of product placement I've heard in years when he said: "Do you go for the Tunnock's?


Genius travels the world and it eventually finds its way to Devon, where I'm from.


"I don't think you can choose between caramel wafer and teacake.

It's like Lennon and McCartney - you can't separate them."


Showing true pop genius, Chris decided to write a Tunnock's national anthem and composed this song lyric on the spot: "They keep for ages and never spoil/Wrapped in that delightful silver foil.


"You eat them fast, perhaps too quick/And if you eat more than two boxes, you'll probably be..."


Chris demanded I supply the pay-off so I said: "You'll probably be ELATED."

The singer, delighted with my one-word contribution, reckons we have a Grammy winner on our hands.


But there was method in Chris' madness. He's hoping Tunnock's slip him a few boxes of goodies.


He said: "Billy, without meaning to sound like an idiot, that's what I was gunning for. I know the boss at Tunnock's will hear this."


Scots bassist Guy, who grew up in Kirkcaldy, revealed: "I used to have a very interesting technique for eating a Tunnock's teacake. I'd take it out of its foil, smash it onmy forehead then pick the cracked chocolate off the top before eating the marshmallow."


Coldplay headline the SECC in Glasgow on December 5 and 6.


The group sold 8.3 million copies of 2005 album X & Y but admit they don't know what fans will make of Viva La Vida, produced by ex-Roxy Music legend Brian Eno.


Guitarist Jonny said: "We're excited and nervous waiting to hear everyone's opinion of the album."


Chris added: "That's why we worked with Eno, who's produced U2, David Bowie and Talking Heads. He put us in our place and that made us free so we didn't have to worry about what we'd achieve. Somehow it all felt very fresh and new."


The bakery is the band's first proper base since squatting in Jonny's student flat in 1999. He said: "It was a horrible little flat. Hundreds of mice ran across the floor."


Viva La Vida is their most ambitious album to date and some tracks have an almost religious fervour, similar to Coldplay classics In My Place and Fix You.


Chris said: "We grew up singing hymns every day at school assembly.

"The big hits were Jerusalem or Onward Christian Soldiers. Even people who hated assembly would get excited about those.


"That's what's so amazing about playing T In The Park-you hear the mass audience sing with you."


Despite achieving phenomenal success, Chris remains a true pop fan at heart and was bowled over when he met Beyonce. He said: "She's the most impressive person I've met. She's a legend to me but much younger than me."


Coldplay are gearing up for their UK arena tour in December and Chris has promised a few surprises.


They will transform the 10,000- capacity SECC with multiple stages.

He said: "For the first time in concert history, we're playing with magic balls. It's a bit David Copperfield, David Blaine and Paul Daniels."



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  • 5 weeks later...

Good things come in small packages


"Invention,” as Willie Wonka told visitors to his chocolate factory, “is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation and 2% butterscotch ripple.” Even though the butterscotch ripple is replaced by marshmallow, the equation still holds fairly firm — given the figures still add up to 105% — for the Tunnock’s factory in south Lanarkshire, manufacturers since 1890 of moreish tea accompanying baked goods in antiquated wrappers.


Invention, though, isn’t the correct word for what Tunnock’s do. The bulk of the company’s invention — the Snowball, the Tunnock’s Teacake, the Caramel Log and the Caramel Wafer — was done in the early 1950s; crazy, radical stuff. It was an era when trad jazz and the coronation had put everybody in a bring-it-on kind of mood.


Tunnock’s products never change in appearance, content or spirit. They are always crispy, chewy and wrapped in cartoonish art noveau with a rosy-cheeked chap on the front. The Caramel Log and the Teacake are fixed points in a changing world, among the few non-negotiables in the packed lunch of existence.


“We always look to Kit Kat as the number one market-leading competitor,” says Fergus Loudon, sales manager of Tunnock’s, “but it recently appointed a new chairman who had a background in ice cream. He introduced all these new flavourings — raspberry ripple Kit Kats and giant Kit Kats and so on — and he lost the brand considerable sales. Our secret is, never dilute the line.”


This type of unchanging, reliable role breeds a certain type of affection among consumers and such was evinced last week with the disclosure of a curious fact about the Tunnock’s operation. The company runs public tours of its production plant in Uddingston. You would imagine these tours to be the kind of grim chore undertaken by groups from sheltered housing complexes when the weather’s bad.


In reality, the tours are wildly popular and oversubscribed. Should you wish to inspect the Tunnock’s operation, apply now and they might be able to fit you in next summer. The band Coldplay will get special treatment, however. After the singer, Chris Martin, recently expressed his enthusiasm for its products (“You can’t choose between the Caramel Wafer and the Teacake,” he said, “They’re like Lennon and McCartney, you can’t separate them”), Tunnock’s dispatched a hamper to the band’s studio in Abbey Road with an invitation to visit when they play Glasgow later in the year.

When they get there, they will get to peer inside one of the oddest, most charming operations currently extant, the last great survivor of the Victorian business world. The publishing firm DC Thomson is something similar, but it lacks a toweringly central, Wonka-like king figure, such as Boyd Tunnock, the septuagenarian grandson of the company’s founder and its current managing director, the type of kindly paternal overlord who in the olden days would build his workforce villages and holiday resorts.


Tunnock’s still has a tenement on Uddingston high street, with 18 flats rented to employees. Tunnock’s three daughters, Karen, Leslie and Fiona, are all shareholders in the business; his son-in-law Fergus is his sales manager. There are six grandchildren. It’s safe to say that the company’s reputation for conscientious, modest perfectionism from another era will not be relinquished easily.


To show he leads by example, Tunnock shows me the card on which he has noted the hours he’s worked this week: a 4am start on Monday, 6am the next day. “Baker’s hours,” he says. He carries cash to hand out £50 notes when an employee makes a useful suggestion; he’s down £100 today for two ideas involving bin bags.


When an engineer passes on his way to repair some clanking piece of machinery, Tunnock tells him to stand down and scampers off to do the job himself. His silver 1951 Lagonda sits outside the front door, part of a fleet that includes a 1999 Rolls-Royce and a 1938 Tunnock’s van. A former rally driver, yachtsman and Church of Scotland elder, Tunnock refuses to take life at the pace you’d expect of a man with a reported fortune of £30m.


“We never discuss money,” says Tunnock. “Money has nothing to do with what we do here. It’s a good company, it turns a profit and as long as that stays the same we’ll continue doing what we do.”


Tunnock even ambles along to the tours occasionally, to sketch the basics of the company’s foundation, as a baker’s shop run by his grandfather Thomas in 1890, quickly famed for its teacakes, before his son Archie expanded operations in 1952 with the launch of a chocolate-covered wafer and caramel sandwich. Today Tunnock’s and Uddingston are synonymous. The factory covers 300,000sq ft and employs 550 staff, all of whom seem hopelessly devoted to Boyd and the Tunnock’s ethos. Almost 20 current employees have been at the firm for a quarter of a century.


Before we set off on the tour, Loudon insists we scrub up — receptacles of antibacterial unguents are on the walls — and put on white coats and hairnets. Jewellery and chewing gum are banned, lest they fall into the Snowball mix and turn them into warped takes on the Kinder egg.


There are four production floors here: the wafer ovens on the top, Caramel Log department below, Teacakes below that and Snowballs on the ground. This necessitates a curious relationship between gravity and the typical Tunnock’s product. The snow in the Snowballs is made in bulbous copper tanks on the second floor then pumped down tubes to the ground floor, where the mix is swathed in chocolate. This adds a certain Wonka-esque frisson to the humble Snowball.


However, the point of a tour of a confectionary factory is to see the tricks of the trade. When the filling of a Teacake is deposited on its biscuit base it retains a pointy, quiff-like peak, which must be removed as it would prevent the chocolate setting properly. This was less of a problem in the handmade days, more so when you’re pumping out 29,000 an hour. Tunnock was foxed until an Irish baker told him to run the marshmallow under a roller covered in crepe bandage, a Heath Robinson-like method that’s still employed today.


Curiouser still is the quality control department, a little office just off the Caramel Wafer cooling line. Here, as well as confirming the arrival of deliveries and that paperwork is in order, the product is sampled regularly to ensure it contains no flaws undetected by the naked eye. This office is staffed by three women, suprisingly svelte young women, apparently unaffected by their ceaseless consumption of Teacakes and chocolate.


The truly interesting things about a visit to the Tunnock’s factory, however, are the glimpses it affords of a hallowed institution moonlighting. They make a lot of confectionery they don’t tell us about. It’s a little like discovering your mother has a secret career as an airline pilot.


We’re all accustomed to the basic Tunnock’s range. In here, though, they’ve got items made for the export market mainly: mallow cakes, Caramel Shortcake for the wholesale trade, own-brand teacakes for “a supermarket in the north of England” and birthday cakes made to customer commissions. For some reason the discovery of these secret sweetmeats left me feeling slightly hurt.


You can’t hold it against them, though. Times are getting hard. The company gas bill has shot up by 75% in a year; the rising price of wheat will always have an effect on bakers.


Last year Tunnock’s posted the first profit warning in its 117-year history. The market impinges on even the tea shop of our dreams. A quick inspection, though, of the cheerful, comradely employees and the manically passionate Boyd persuades you Tunnock’s can outlive any big crunch. As, indeed, might Boyd Tunnock himself. Leaving the factory, we find him cleaning up the car park.



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