Balfours baking up a storm for 165 years

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By Helen Randell

Every single minute of every day across Australia, five Balfours square pies and three Balfours custard tarts are eaten. That’s quite a statistic and one which is even more impressive when you consider that the bakery is this year celebrating its 165th birthday.

To mark the occasion, Balfours Bakery has compiled the story of its longevity into The Balfours Story – a comprehensive 96-page publication. The book follows the story of when James Calder and his wife Margaret Balfour arrived in Adelaide in 1852 and pieces together the family history, through the social, economic and political changes which have shaped the company into what it has become today.

Erik de Roos, chief marketing officer at Balfours Bakery says it is the commitment to product and service quality which have been key to Balfours’ success.

The Balfours Story details the history of the iconic SA bakery.

“We have lived through prosperous times, world wars and financial hardship and despite the odds being stacked against us at times, we are still here today. I think that speaks volumes to the strength of the brand and its importance as part of South Australia’s cultural identity,” he says.

One of the pioneering feats, as described in the book, was the decision by Elizabeth Balfour, wife to James and Margaret’s nephew, to transform their original shop on Rundle Street into tea rooms. This was one of the first such venues to open in Adelaide, and it was such a success that it wasn’t long until larger premises were required. The café then moved to the location where it stayed for 110 years, later having the address of 74 Rundle Mall.

Balfour & Co. Factory c.1908 on the corner of Morphett and Franklin streets in Adelaide remained the base until 2003.

The business has progressed much since that time, with both good and bad fortune, and in 2008 another SA business, San Remo Macaroni Company, became the new owner of Balfours Bakery.

Without a doubt, one of the most iconic Balfours Bakery items is the frog cake. For more than 90 years the cake has been a treat for many – a cube of sponge cake with a layer of jam through the middle, topped with a dome of creamy filling and fondant icing. Even today, the cakes are partly hand-made, with a hot knife used to cut the mouth into the fondant, and the eyes piped onto the face.

Erik says his favourite Balfours product is the custard tart. “It continues to be made with the same recipe and method now as when it was re-introduced to SA after the egg shortage 60 years ago,” he says.

The Balfours frog cake is one of the bakery’s most iconic treats and is used to promote the state to interstate and international visitors.

Despite having many ‘old favourites’, Balfours continues to move forward by monitoring global and local consumer trends and by producing new products for new tastes.

“Consumers now expect more from their food suppliers, manufacturers and even retailers while their preferences evolve much like fashion,” Erik says. “We’re constantly assessing which trends we can tap into.”

The Balfours Story is available free from Balfours Café City Cross and Balfours Café Marion until the end of May. The Balfours Story will be available to download from Balfours.com.au from June 2019.

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