Shortbread boss warns Union Jack boycott could 'kill Scottish jobs'
The managing director of Walkers Shortbread has claimed boycotts are 'killing Scottish jobs' after debate over the firm's Union Jack flag branding.
Jim Walker of the Moray-based family business hit back at those who complained about the marketing on what he described as niche novelty prodcuts sold in London and abroad as gifts.
The executive also said he is “not ashamed” to use the British branding and insisted the 120-year-old company are “proud to be Scottish”.
Walkers Shortbread produces oatcakes, cakes and biscuits which are sold in over 60 countries worldwide and use the Union Jack flag on a range of exports abroad.
A Facebook post showing a Walkers biscuit tin on a shelf in a German supermarket sparked a furious debate on social media about how Scottish products are marketed in foreign countries.
Alison Brown, from Dundee, published the viral post on her timeline, which gained over 900 shares in less than 24 hours.
The post reads: “It breaks my heart! This is how Walkers are marketing our famous Scottish shortbread in Germany! Our hard won Scottish branding is being systematically destroyed! For what? To protect their Union! I feel so sad and angry.”
Following the post, some social media users took to complaining directly to Walkers through their Facebook page and spoke of boycotting their products and blacklisting them.
Others commented in support of the manufacturer, saying the criticism was narrow minded.
Mr Walker said the response to the Union Flag branding was “sad” and “disappointing” and also hit out at claims a board meeting was held to get rid the products being sold abroad.
He added the Union Jack flag biscuit tins were produced for the London 2012 Olympics as part of a memento range.
“We have to make products that are suitable for different markets, occasions and events. We have made products for America with the Statue of Liberty on it, products for Australia and Middle East, and the Union Jack tin has caused all the angst,” he told the Herald.
“We make special products for special markets so I don’t need to be ashamed to make something for a market and especially for the Olympics, when it was a British team.
“By making what people want we have been able to develop the business and more than 600 are employed because of the success of our exports business.
“I think the reason why we have had some success is because we are prepared to make what the customer is looking for and to meet the needs of the market and in doing so it is creating jobs. When someone is saying, don’t buy Scottish products, isn’t it just killing Scottish jobs.”
Walkers Shortbread responded to complaints over the branding on Tuesday afternoon.
A company statement said: “Walkers Shortbread is a family company which has been established in the Highlands of Scotland for 120 years.
“We take great pride in our Scottish heritage, and we work closely within our community as a key employer for our area, Speyside. We have a dedicated and loyal local workforce of long term employees, and the family values of the company come from generations of family ownership.
“One of our key business principles is maintaining our manufacturing in Scotland for the long run and this is what we as a business and family strive for.
“The Walker family would like to clarify that the Union Jack Keepsake tin is one of many tins currently available, each of which is designed to celebrate an array of places and events and includes the launch of the Love Scotland Keepsake range at the start of the year.
“We strive continuously to offer a wide range of products to suit our global customer base. “