Tapping into the trend for artisan baking
The popularity of The Great British Bake Off has seen such a rise in artisan baking that it has changed the market for traditional millers like Matthews Cotswold Flour.
Based in Shipton-under-wychwood, this family-run business has been in the Evenlode Valley since 1912 and still relies on traditional equipment including stone mills. The mill is owned and run by Paul Matthews and his son Bertie, the fifth and sixth generation of flour millers in a business launched by Frederick Matthews 106 years ago.
Matthews produces a wide range of flours using authentic stoneground and modern roller mill techniques in the original building.
The company recently launched two new flour products – stoneground wholemeal and Canadian Great White – reflecting a growing trend for artisan baking and the rise of heritage brands with high provenance values.
After doing a Business Economics degree and working in London and New York, Bertie returned to Shipton-underwychwood last year to join the family mill.
He has brought a renewed energy and passion to the business and he has big plans for growing the brand.
The trend for healthier ‘real’ bread, combining a better understanding of the qualities of different grains and a passion for artisan baking, has changed the market for independent millers. People are discovering that there is a huge difference between a hand-crafted loaf and one made using the Chorleywood process, the method introduced in the 1960s to produce
factory-made bread in a shorter time, using lower-protein wheat. It’s a process that still produces around 80% of the bread in the UK but things are changing, according to Bertie.
“People are only just rediscovering what bread is like when it hasn’t been made using the Chorleywood process. They don’t need to eat mass produced bread made from lower quality flour where chemical enzymes are added to make the bread rise quickly and evenly. They can make their own bread, where wild yeast makes the bread rise and helps give it a delicious flavour.”
Bertie says the mill also has a unique atmosphere that makes a difference to the flour being produced. Flour takes on some of the atmosphere of the mill it was ground in and the farm it was grown on, because grain has to have just the right moisture level to make good flour, and moisture comes from the air and ground.
“Our mill is surrounded by trees and fields. We can literally watch the grain growing and the mill isn’t air-conditioned or hermetically sealed off from the outside.
“As a smaller mill we are less industrialised and our milling simpler. We can still check by hand each batch of flour, touch it and feel it as it goes through the milling process from grain to flour. Not many mills can do that nowadays.
“We’re also buying grain from the same farming families my grandfather and great grandfather bought from, still having dinner with them as they’re old family friends.
“It’s part of what makes working in the family business so special. You feel a deep connection with the land and the people.
“I came back to the business because I adore living the Cotswolds. I was born and brought up just across the road from the mill, and I love it here.
“I’m the fifth of eight children but all my brothers and sisters have careers and commitments so it fell to me to join the business and I love being a part of the mill’s next generation.” www.fwpmatthews.co.uk
Bertie and Paul Matthews
Packing at Matthews Cotswold Flour