The boss of Marks and Spencer has hailed a new super bakery in North Wales as one of the best in the world.
The praise from CEO Steve Rowe came during a visit to the Jones Village Bakery’s new state-of-the-art, 140,000 sq ft production facility on Wrexham Industrial Estate.
Mr Rowe was there for a major relaunch of retail giant’s Plan A environmental strategy to combat climate change, reduce waste, use sustainable raw materials, trade ethically and help customers to lead healthier lifestyles.
He chose the eco-friendly Jones Village Bakery for the reboot following a visit to see the new bakery after it started production in July.
It was built to replace the family firm’s flagship bakery which was destroyed by a devastating fire in 2019 and is four times the size of the original.
While he was there, Mr Rowe was also given a guided tour of the six-acre Erlas Black Wood next door by managing director Robin Jones and his brother, Christien, the projects director.
The Jones Village Bakery have teamed up as official partners with the North Wales Wildlife Trust to conserve the woodland that was once part of a large area of medieval hunting parkland before the area was industrialised during the Second World War.
The broad leaf woodland includes native species like oak, ash and willow and it’s known there are tawny owls nesting there, as well as being an important habitat for greater crested newts.
Beneath the canopy of trees, the woodland is carpeted with an array of colourful plants including Wood Anemones, Wild Garlic, Dog Violets and Early Purple Orchids.
The bakery has also created three ponds to provide a haven for the wildlife and has plans to set aside part of the site for allotments where bakery staff can grow their own fruit and vegetables.
The woodland will also be available to the public and workers from neighbouring factories on the industrial estate.
Mr Rowe was so impressed with what he saw that he decided it was the ideal location to shoot the video to relaunch Plan A and immediately pledged a £10,000 donation to further develop the woodland as a local amenity.
He said: “The Village Bakery has been a partner of Marks and Spencer for 14 years.
“I came to see their new premises a while ago and I was inspired by the work that Robin, Christien and the team have done.
“What they’ve done is create a new factory facility that makes outstanding products and bolted on the pinnacle of our Plan A aspirations.
“I think this is something we can use as a model across the business, not only on our journey to reinvigorate Plan A but also play a part in the race to zero carbon emissions by 2040.
“We launched Plan A in 2007and at the time it was a sector leading scheme to reduce our carbon footprint to protect the planet.
“Over the course of 14 years we have achieved many things but it’s time to go again because the challenges we face in the world have got bigger not smaller.
“We can only succeed in our ambitions by working with our partners in the supply base like the Village Bakery, and our customers and our colleagues.
“I’m inspired by what they have done with the nature reserve and I hear they’re just about to put in allotments for colleagues which I think is an amazing idea.
“This is one of the highlights of my career because what we do today will make a real difference. The message will go to 70,000 colleagues and a 1,000 suppliers across the world and I know this will galvanise action.
Mr Rowe added: “The fire was one of the saddest days for colleagues here and the Jones family. It was an absolute tragedy.
“The response from them, in conjunction with us, was first class. They took that piece of adversity and turned it into something which I think is extraordinary – the phoenix from the ashes.
“I would describe it one of the finest breadmaking facilities I have seen in the world, with the opportunity to grow and continue to enhance the technology behind the products.
“The products that are going to come from this plant for many, many years are phenomenal.”
Robin Jones, who was interviewed for the video, said: “To have Steve Rowe here today is wonderful – we’re blown away.
“Dad is a keen countryman and it was vital to him to ensure that we look after the environment and do the right thing. And lo and behold, here we are today helping to relaunch Plan A by the UK’s best loved retailer.
“Conserving Erlas Black Wood and opening it up as a local amenity is a lovely way for the Village Bakery to play our part.
“As we grow, we’re doing it in a sustainable way and it’s nice to give something back to the community and ultimately back to the environment.
“From our perspective, our relationship with M&S is the perfect marriage because our values are totally aligned. We are singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to the quality of the products and doing what we can to protect the planet.
“We will also never forget that they stood by us when we had the fire and what they did for the Village Bakery and all our colleagues was incredible. They go the extra mile – they do the right thing.”
Also there for the relaunch was young environmental campaigner Luisa Walford, 15, from Bakewell, in Derbyshire, who wrote to M&S about her concerns for the future of the planet.
She said: “The response from M&S has been great, it’s been very inspiring because I know there are people listening to young voices and the fact that I can work with them now to make a change is great.
“It’s amazing that I am speaking directly with the CEO and he is definitely on the same wavelength. I know he is very passionate about keeping the environment safe.
“This nature reserve at the Village Bakery is amazing. I think it is something all businesses should do.
“Having a green space not only helps the environment but it is also good for mental health because there is evidence that green spaces are good for the mind and make you relax. It is so important
“The Village Bakery are a role model for other companies to follow their example. Their passion behind keeping things sustainable is great.”