Sponsored feature

Champions of Design: Tunnock's

The Scottish confectionery brand grew from its founder's bakery and tea rooms and is still family-owned.

The Tunnock family has been in the baking business for more than 120 years, producing cult confectionery items such as caramel wafers, snowballs and tea cakes.

Thomas Tunnock set up a bakery in Uddingston, Scotland, in 1890, although it was not until the 50s that the company created the biscuits it would become famous for.

Feeling the effects of wartime rationing, Thomas' son, Archie, who had taken over the business, needed a product with a longer shelf-life than cakes. While experimenting with wafer and chocolate, he came up with the classic caramel wafer. With the help of his sons, Tom and Boyd, the creativity continued as the family came up with the chocolate marshmallow tea cake and the coconut-covered snowball. The caramel log and wafer cream also followed, as did dark-chocolate variants.

Tunnock's vans delivering to local shops in central Scotland were a familiar sight as the treats became popular. In 1957, an arrangement with Unigate dairies allowed Tunnock's to expand outside Scotland, and by the end of that year, its biscuits were being exported to Newfoundland.

Today, Tunnock's products are sold in more than 30 countries including Caribbean nations, Kuwait, Canada and Japan.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly Tunnock's biggest foreign market, with 20% of its sales now coming from overseas. The popularity of its products in the Middle East is attributed in part to the number of Scottish expats living in the region. The wife of the Sultan of Brunei is such a fan that she reportedly paid a visit to the company's headquarters and factory in Scotland.

The factory has been described by visitors as being akin to that of the Roald Dahl character Willy Wonka, with the smell of coconut, used for making snowballs, predominant. The business is still family-owned, with Boyd Tunnock at the helm. More than 500 people from the local area are employed by Tunnock's, including Boyd's daughter and son-in-law.

The factory has remained in its original home in Scotland despite global success, making the world-famous confectionery as well as other baked goods for its tea shop.

Annual turnover as of 2009 was about £32m, and the company claims that it makes 5m caramel wafers every week, a feat that the brand is so proud of that it displays this information on every wrapper.


 Silas Amos, creative strategist, JKR

By Silas Amos, creative strategist, JKR

Tunnock's is a classic case of design that has remained 'unspoiled by progress'.

Its charm lies in an uncontrived retro feel.

In a competitive environment that is glossy, Photoshopped and up-to-the minute, Tunnock's jumps out for its almost crudely bold graphic nature - the dynamic pattern of stripes sings on the shelf.

The basic typography, punchy colours and quirky equities such as the flag-bearing lion or the star on the marshmallows all contribute to it looking like the real deal. If you set out to do a pastiche of this style, you would never pull off something so idiosyncratic and singular.

The charming yellow display boxes featuring the chubby-cheeked schoolboy would probably never pass muster now amid associations with childhood obesity. Happily, they were created in a less uptight age.

The folk at Tunnock's are no fools; they know that not monkeying around with old visual ingredients is what gives their brand its appeal. When we unwrap one of Tunnock's cakes or biscuits we are also unwrapping associations with happier, simpler times. It is the perfect brand for the 'keep calm' era, Which is why its distinctive stripy iconography is now applied to trendy ceramics, tea towels and suchlike.

The graphics also pass a crucial test of a brand's visual robustness. Even if you crumple it up, there is no mistaking the packaging for any brand but itself.

It really is design of a fine vintage.


1865: Thomas Tunnock was born in Uddingston, Scotland.

1910: Encouraged by his bakery's success, Tunnock opened a tea room.

1912: The bakery was destroyed by a fire, but re-established in a different location within two years.

1920: Thomas Tunnock died while his son, Archie, was serving in the Army. He took over the family business on his return.

1986: Poet Laureate Ted Hughes penned a verse on the back of a caramel wafer wrapper. It was later sold at auction for £575.

1987: Boyd Tunnock was awarded an MBE for his work exporting to foreign countries. He later received a CBE for his charity work.

2000s: Exports continued with new markets in Ghana, Denmark, Singapore and Egypt.

View more Champions of Design


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer