Perthshire clootie dumpling business Clootie McToot is to shut its Abernethy café as it merges with an Inverness-shire company.
Michelle Maddox started the business after the response to her clootie dumplings at a school fete encouraged her to sell at farmers’ markets.
She opened the Clootie McToot café in a converted horse barn and hay loft in Abernethy’s Main Street in May 2018.
Further investments were made installing a viewing kitchen, where the business also produces dumplings for its shop, ecommerce operation and distributors.
She raised the profile of the business further by appearing on Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars BBC television show in 2022.
Clootie McToot expansion
Clootie McToot is merging with the COBBS Group, based in Drumnadrochit in Inverness-shire.
The group operates four hotels in the Highlands as well as 17 cafes and Cobbs Cakes, which produces goods from its bakery.
Michelle said the capacity of this bakery is the main reason she is merging.
Significant growth to the export business has meant she needs to increase her production capacity.
Explaining the decision on social media, she said: “COBBS has a wonderful team of 35 very talented bakers.
“We both share similar family values, ethos and we’ve both got the same passion and visions for producing authentic Scottish produce.
“COBBS will help elevate our ability to upscale production to meet the ever-growing demand for our authentic clootie dumplings within the UK and Internationally.”
The shop and cafe will close to the public on Sunday. However manufacturing will continue as normal in the short-term.
The business owner added: “We would like to thank all our wonderful customers from near and far as well as all our dedicated suppliers.
“We would not be in this position without the support of each and every one of you.”
Assurances over quality
The move means people will no longer be able to order clootie dumplings on the Clootie McToot website and wholesale accounts will be moved over to COBBS.
Meanwhile, the new Clootie McToot headquarters will be set up in High Street, Invergordon, where there will be a community café.
Michelle stresses that the business is not being sold and the high levels of quality will be maintained.
She said: “We have built our reputation on producing high quality, authentic clootie dumplings.
“I am sure there will be more recipes developed and new collaborations to ensure our brand never goes stale.
“The use of traditional methods is part of our ethos and values and will never be changed.”
She added: “I should stress, this is not us selling the business. It’s a merger to help us expand production to global levels we wouldn’t be able to do on our own.”
Since opening the Abernethy cafe, the business has since gone from strength-to-strength.
It employs a workforce of around 15 staff, the majority of which have a disability.
The firm previously won a deal to supply John Lewis. Michelle’s current focus is on growing her business by exporting to the USA and Canada.
She won Small Business of the Year at The Courier Business Awards in 2022 and repeated this success last year.
However, business has not always been easy. After attending a food and drink market at 10 Downing Street, where she met the then current Prime Minister Boris Johnston, she was the victim of online trolling.
Last year, Michelle discovered a £10,000 fraud within her business relating to unauthorised refunds.