Two strands of Orkney history have come together to create an award-winning product. They are an ancient grain grown on the islands and the fourth generation of a local family bakery business.

When combined, they led to Orkney Heritage Bere Barley Chilli & Cheese Oatcakes bagging a gold award in the 2024 Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards.

They’re the creation of Stockan’s Oatcakes, which can trace its history back to the 1890s. That’s when Gilbert Archer, great-grandfather of current owners Irené and Catriona Archer, worked for a Leith grocery wholesaler.

Bere Barley C&C2 box

Source: Stockan’s Oatcakes

As the wholesale business grew, it made use of a boat company that worked out of Leith and operated in the Orkney Islands and north of Scotland.

The wholesaler’s connection with Orkney was reinforced as Gilbert, who became a partner in the business, had relatives in the archipelago.

In the 1900s, the business purchased bakery R Garden & Company, based in Kirkwall on mainland Orkney.

“In those days, horse vans sold the groceries around the mainland, with floating shops catering for the other islands,” explains Irené. “Over the decades, a wide range of products were baked including our well-known, coarse-ground ‘thick’ oatcakes.”

During the first and second world wars, the business held contracts to supply bread to naval ships in the anchorage of Scapa Flow.

In 1952, it began to use the Old Man of Hoy, Orkney’s 137-metre sandstone rock stack, on its packaging.

A major change came in 1986, when the business acquired Stockan’s bakery in Stromness, mainland Orkney, giving it the capability to produce fine-milled ‘thin’ oatcakes. The brand became known as Stockan & Gardens, and changed to Stockan’s Oatcakes when production moved to Stromness.

The brand’s Orkney Heritage range, which won a gold in the 2023 Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards, was developed to sit alongside Stockan’s traditional oatcakes – but with a more nuanced flavour and visual appeal.

“Over the decades we have worked hard to build up our wholesaler distribution network and we try to work closely with and listen to our customers,” says Irené, adding that feedback showed demand for a style of oatcake not readily available in the mults.

“Along with our desire to develop a new range, our NPD journey began. Building on values of great taste, heritage, quality and healthy choice, we decided to work with ancient grains and launch a boxed product.”

This year’s winning product is made with native bere barley, which can be traced back on the islands thousands of years and is still grown and milled in Orkney. It is commonly referred to as 90-day barley, because it is sown later and harvested earlier than other crops.

A key factor in the survival of the barley on Orkney has been the traditional water-powered Barony Mill in Birsay on mainland Orkney, where Stockan’s sources its beremeal, says Irené.

“The fertile lands of the Orkney Islands have seen crops grown for thousands of years and we decided to work with ancient grains as a nod to our rich heritage.”

The development of the Orkney Heritage range also enabled Stockan’s to realise an ambition to produce a canapé-sized triangle oatcake.

“After many trials we created a split mould producing a grooved triangle design, allowing each oatcake to split neatly into two smaller triangles.”

OH & loose packet6

Source: Stockan’s Oatcakes

Many members of Stockan’s team were involved in the development of the new range, adds Irené, who splits her working life between the Stromness production site and the company’s Edinburgh office. “The business is made up of a great team, and we drew from their experience and knowledge, especially as some have been with the company for over 25 years.”

A campaign is now promoting the Orkney Heritage range, involving digital media and catalogue ads. With summer approaching, sampling aimed at tourists is being organised in local Northern Isles stores. “By concentrating on provenance, taste and quality we are focusing on expanding sales through speciality food shops in the UK and our online shop.”

Winning the Farm Shop & Deli Product Award should also help to raise the profile of the range, as will  exhibiting at the Farm Shop & Deli Show at NEC, Birmingham.

“The most rewarding aspect is working with a traditional product that is still loved today, and that wins awards for quality and taste,” says Irené. “Being able to show our products to a wide range of potential customers at the show has increased the exposure of an Orkney Island business to a greater audience.”


Farm Shop & Deli Show is part of the UK Food & Drink Shows 2024, which are organised by William Reed, publisher of The Grocer, and will take place at Birmingham’s NEC from Monday 29 April to Wednesday 1 May. UK Food & Drink Shows comprises five events: Farm Shop & Deli Show, Food & Drink Expo, The Forecourt Show, National Convenience Show and The Restaurant Show. Brands and businesses at the show will range from startups to the biggest names in the industry. Register for free at the UK Food & Drink Shows website.