More than a million eggs are broken every day at the Bumble Hole Foods factory in Bromsgrove, as ingredients from this successful family business make their way to most supermarkets and stores, from M&S to Burger King.
Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire puds, hotels and airlines serving scrambled eggs, Kingsmill bread and supermarket shelves of quiches, meringues, Scotch eggs and scones all have products that come from this busy factory just next door the M5 at Catshill.
Now a huge family business in Worcestershire with sales of Â£20m a year, it was all started by the grandfather of the Hewston clan and a former Sparkhill firefighter turned Lickey End chicken farmer.
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William Hewston left Birmingham for the Lickeys to pursue his dream of raising chickens, to sell eggs door-to-door in the late 1950s. This led to the Bumble Hole Foods factory in 1961 – a factory which now runs his grandson and granddaughter Andrew Hewston and Sharon Jones.
The walls are filled with enchanting photos of Andrew and Sharon’s father, David Hewston, and other parents with delivery vans and the like.
Today, the plant is a vital part of the food manufacturing chain, creating bags of “liquid eggs and egg whites” that are pasteurized to last longer and sent to food companies for use in cakes and most everyday edibles.
They also boil or scramble eggs on a large scale, preserving them for use in sandwiches, scotch eggs or by hotels, cruise ships and flights serving breakfast.
A historic Bromsgrove family business
It was very much a family business as Sharon and Andrew grew up with their father David joining the business when he was 18, their mother Maureen doing accounts and now the next generation of their teenagers are getting involved too.
Site manager Sharon said: “We have the first set of accounts Grandpa did when he made a profit of Â£1,811. He’s come a long way since he started on the old road from Birmingham to Lickey End with hundreds of chickens.
âThe market changed and there was more demand for egg products. When this site opened, there were only three warehouses near the oak tree and it has been expanding ever since.
“We no longer have any chickens, but buy the eggs from local and national farms. We process 5 million eggs a week.”
Commercial Director Andrew, an alumnus of Bromsgrove School, joined the business after university aged 24 and runs the business alongside his sister Sharon and Managing Director Simon Bennett.
Andrew, now 48, said: “We grew up knowing everything about eggs because it’s in the family. Mum is 80 and still lives on the site but dad died a while ago. two years old, when he was 76 years old.
âThe variety of businesses that use our products is vast. It is used as a glaze for scones and buns at Burger King, in mayonnaise, cakes and lemon curd, then boiled products are in sandwiches and Scottish eggs.”
How it’s inside the egg factory
Bumble Hole Foods, which sponsors local football team Bromsgrove Sporting, has a country feel around the factory with even horses and a donkey in the fields on site.
Plus, there are rows of palm trees that David Hewson planted after vacationing in Italy decades ago to “create a nice place for people to work.”
Inside there is a slight egg smell, but something the staff don’t notice anymore and seem surprised when I mention it.
The egg store is almost artistic with pallets and pallets of eggs as far as the eye can see. It’s the only time I think I’ll ever be surrounded by more than a million eggs.
They’re mostly white and shiny – and, interestingly, each one is traceable with a batch number that can link back to exactly which farm and chicken laid it and when. They are also predominantly white because UK farmers cannot sell white eggs in supermarkets, where consumers prefer to buy brown eggs.
egg breaking machines
As we weave from room to room, I see huge egg-breaking machines and pasteurizers on their way to be packed there in 6kg bags, each containing 100 eggs in liquid form.
There are even even larger industrial-size boxes containing 1,800 egg whites that are about to be shipped to a pudding company in Yorkshire.
When it comes to hard-boiled eggs, there’s the biggest pan imaginable that heats them to 95 degrees for 10 minutes before immediately cooling them to 5 degrees to avoid that unsightly black ring around the yolk.
There’s even a lab that checks how egg whites “whip”.
While ingredients for supermarket products have held steady during covid, sales from the scrambled and boiled egg aisles heading to hospitality and airlines have fallen by around 50% and are still not back to pre-covid levels.
But with extra planning and a lot of effort, the family managed to keep going through the shutdowns and not lay off too many staff.
Among the factory’s 85 employees are another brother and sister, Sarah and Dale Davies, from Bromsgrove, who have worked at the factory for 23 years.
It hasn’t stopped them yet and they are still excited to work in various departments over the years. Something that reflects well the family spirit of the factory.
Everything is impeccable too because after the shifts from 6 am to 2 pm and from 2 pm to 10 pm, the cleaning ladies spend the night.
Eggshells are recycled
Much thought has also been given to sustainability with eggshells saved for use as fertilizer by farmers and egg trays made into soft bedding for horses and a modern type of cork board.
The company is even currently involved in research by the University of Birmingham to see if using eggshells with potato can create an alternative form of energy.
Then there are new lines they are considering with egg whites for the consumer and bodybuilder markets.
The business may be 60 years old, but there is still the same entrepreneurial spirit of their grandfather in the current generation, whose legacy lasted long after he left Sparkhill to buy chickens.
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