News, Culture & Society

ANTONIA HOYLE: How Mary Berry is still cooking up millions

For most of us, reaching your ninth decade is a sign it’s time to kick back and relax. Unless you’re national treasure Mary Berry, that is, who might be 85 but says she will carry on working ‘until they kick me out’.

Indeed, far from slowing down since she quit The Great British Bake Off in 2016, the broadcaster and cook has never been busier, with every year bringing a fresh whirlwind of TV shows, spin-off books and merchandising opportunities. 

Her latest book, Simple Comforts — her 82nd, according to Mary’s own estimations — is currently at the top of the non-fiction Bookseller Chart, while the accompanying BBC series has become essential lockdown viewing.

For most of us, reaching your ninth decade is a sign it’s time to kick back and relax. Unless you’re national treasure Mary Berry, that is, who might be 85 but says she will carry on working ‘until they kick me out’

Little wonder that she is heavily tipped to be in line to receive a Damehood when the Queen’s birthday honours list is released this Saturday.

Of course, with the plaudits has come plenty of dough; Mary is worth an estimated £20 million, and it’s not all due to her cookery prowess.

From merchandise to cleaning tips to gardening, the octogenarian has a keen appetite for a savvy business opportunity.

Here, ANTONIA HOYLE sifts through Mary’s millions.

So many recipes for her success: £5m

With three publishers and a back catalogue of 80 (mostly) cookbooks to her name, Mary’s titles have sold around seven million copies. Already an established cookery writer before she began presenting Bake Off in 2010, television stardom inevitably saw her selling power soar. 

By 2016, she’d sold 2.8 million books for £33.4 million. If Mary is receiving a typical author’s cut of 15 per cent of total sales, that means she’s amassed well over £5 million through books alone.

If Mary is receiving a typical author¿s cut of 15 per cent of total sales, that means she¿s amassed well over £5 million through books alone. She is pictured above on Bake Off with Paul Hollywood in 2015

If Mary is receiving a typical author’s cut of 15 per cent of total sales, that means she’s amassed well over £5 million through books alone. She is pictured above on Bake Off with Paul Hollywood in 2015

She’s published eight books since quitting Bake Off alone, including Quick Cooking released last February, which is comprised of ‘utterly reliable, always delicious fast dishes’.

Her cookbooks range from One-Pot Cooking to Cooking With Cheese and Popular Freezer Cookery, and typically cost around £13 each.

Granted, not all have been money-spinners. Her first effort, the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, published in 1970 when she was 35, earned her a mere £162 per 60,000 copies sold.

How she found time to pen such an extensive repertoire while bringing up three children is a mystery, although Mary — who started her career as a recipe taster before becoming the cookery editor of Housewife magazine — admits a fastidious zeal for organisation helps.

‘I plan everything I do. I put my clothes out the night before. I make a list,’ she says. ‘I have a discipline — I like to grasp the nettle and get it done.’ Of course, she has help too, principally trained sous-chef, cookery writer, confidante and right-hand-woman, Lucy Young, who’s been working with Mary for three decades.

Not content with teaching us the art of the perfect treacle pudding, in October 2017, her manual, Mary’s Household Tips And Tricks, included advice on how to clean the loo (with a tin mug to take out a mugful of water from the bowl for better limescale cleaning, apparently). 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given she’s the privately educated daughter of a former mayor of Bath, she also included tips on how to polish silver.

At a time when more of us are retreating into our homes than ever, copies will fly off the shelves.

Her dressings are impressing: £5m

One of the less glamorous areas of her fortune, but lucrative nonetheless. Mary created a range of salad dressings, chutneys, sauces and condiments with her daughter, Annabel, 47, a trained cook and mother of three, in 1994.

The Mary Berry & Daughter Ltd range started with Original Family Recipe Salad Dressing and Mary Berry¿s Special Mustard Dressing being sold at Mary¿s cookery workshops

The Mary Berry & Daughter Ltd range started with Original Family Recipe Salad Dressing and Mary Berry’s Special Mustard Dressing being sold at Mary’s cookery workshops

The Mary Berry & Daughter Ltd range started with Original Family Recipe Salad Dressing and Mary Berry’s Special Mustard Dressing being sold at Mary’s cookery workshops.

So popular were they that, before long, Mary and her daughter had done deals to sell them in several outlets, from Tesco to Harrods.

By 2013 profits had reportedly soared to £1.2 million and in 2014, the company was sold for £2.55 million to RH Amar & Co, one of Britain’s biggest grocery firms, with generous Mary reported to have given over £2 million from the sale to her children Annabel and Thomas.

The range is still advertised on Mary’s website and sold in Waitrose stores, where her mustard dressing and classic salad dressing will set you back £4 each.

In April 2017, Mary switched from condiments to cakes, working with Finsbury Food Group to produce a line of nine cakes, including her £2.50 Lemon Yoghurt Loaf and £3 Indulgent Chocolate Cake, both on sale at Sainsbury’s. 

Mary is likely to get a percentage of sales that could reach into the millions, not least because, by the following year, Finsbury Group had declared the collaboration ‘hugely successful’.

They announced the expansion of the range last October by throwing an afternoon tea hosted by Mary, packed with retailers and social media influencers. Savvy? Certainly.

Making a mint from merchandising: £1.8m

Despite selling her condiments company to RH Amar, Mary has had plenty of income from her other businesses. 

Under her married name of Hunnings, Mary is listed as a director of Mary Berry Ltd, which reported assets of £1,474,781 to the year ending June 2019, and Mary Berry Merchandising Ltd, which reported net assets of £346,506 in 2019 — up from £288,390 in 2018.

Little information is available on any of these companies as they only file summary accounts. Mary may channel all or part of her earnings from licensing deals and other royalties through them. 

Despite selling her condiments company to RH Amar, Mary has had plenty of income from her other businesses

Despite selling her condiments company to RH Amar, Mary has had plenty of income from her other businesses

Her income is likely to include sums from her kitchenware ranges, deals on both of which were done in 2014, at the peak of Bake Off’s popularity.

There was The Mary Berry Collection, a range of upmarket kitchen products available through Sainsbury’s and John Lewis. A year after arriving in store, sales of the various items are said to have exceeded £1 million. 

They currently include a Mary Berry Signature Collection Dinnerware Set for £125 and set of four eggcups for £12.95.

Since 2014 she has also had a range with Lakeland, reported to be worth five figures, that embodies her ‘care and devotion’. Products include a £399.99 Kenwood by Mary Berry Special Edition mixer and £11.99 Stackable Cake Display Stand to showcase that hopefully not-too-soggy bottom. 

And she might be in her ninth decade, but Mary has embraced new technology. Knowing it is a sure-fire way to lure in younger fans, she has launched a £1.99 app for mobile phones and tablets, In Mary We Trust, featuring 60 recipes.

Home-made luxury living: £2.6m

While it might not warrant getting the violins out, Mary hasn’t fared quite as well with her property investments.

Forced to slash £1.6 million off the price of her home in the village of Penn, Bucks, she and husband of 54 years Paul Hunnings, 85, an antique dealer, sold it for £2.4 million last August, instead of the £4 million it originally went on the market for.

‘It’s very annoying,’ Berry, who had perfected her favourite recipes in its luxury kitchen, lamented last March. 

‘People who come to view always get shortbread, I make them coffee. But at the moment no one is keen to buy.’

She and Paul had acquired the property in a ‘house swap’ in 1988 with a neighbour, Joan — aka Lady Heath, widow of World War II flying ace Sir Barrie Heath — when they decided their former house in the village was too small for themselves and their children.

Land Registry documents suggest that Mary would have had to hand over £100,000 — the difference between the value of her smaller house, which appeared to be valued at £650,000 and her new abode, Watercroft, priced at £750,000 — big money nearly 30 years ago.

Forced to slash £1.6 million off the price of her home in the village of Penn, Bucks, she and husband of 54 years Paul Hunnings, 85, an antique dealer, sold it for £2.4 million last August, instead of the £4 million it originally went on the market for

Forced to slash £1.6 million off the price of her home in the village of Penn, Bucks, she and husband of 54 years Paul Hunnings, 85, an antique dealer, sold it for £2.4 million last August, instead of the £4 million it originally went on the market for

That said, frugal Mary reportedly managed to knock £400,000 off the original asking price of her new home in Henley, Oxon, which she purchased for £2.6 million in March 2017, to be nearer her two children and five grandchildren. ‘Being closer to them has changed our lives,’ Mary said recently.

Although the garden is smaller than at their home in Penn, the property boasts a double garage with gym, indoor pool with swim-up bar and separate cottage.

Her new home will undoubtedly prove an astute investment, not least since planning documents reveal that Mary is transforming an existing conservatory into an orangery and knocking down internal walls to extend the kitchen.

So she will be able to increase the value of the house while continuing to expand her cooking empire from home.

Separately, the Berry family bank balance was further boosted in September 2015, when Mary’s children Thomas and Annabel sold the family’s holiday home in Salcombe, Devon, for £800,000.

…with a berry on top: £2m

A sought-after figure on the lecture circuit and at literary festivals, in previous years Mary has appeared at the Henley Literature Festival, Stratford Literary Festival and Bath Festival, which will all have helped boost book sales.

She is represented by the Kruger Cowne talent management, who are reported to charge between £10,000 and £20,000 for her appearances — and Mary has turned out at food fairs all over the UK.

Given how prolific her appearances have been, she could easily have amassed £2 million over the years.

As with her books, she doesn’t limit herself to cooking — for the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show Mary helped design an allotment-style garden alongside renowned landscaper Jon Wheatley.

It is not known whether Mary was paid for that work, but with tickets to the London show costing £63 for weekend entries, it was a potentially profitable move.

Of course, lockdown has put paid to personal appearances, with Mary admitting that like most she has had to ‘cancel or postpone commitments.’

Not that she’s taken to the sofa like the rest of us, however — this April she presented a slot on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour called Cooking tips for the Coronavirus lockdown with Mary Berry.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, she says: ‘When I cannot go out I look to see what I can do at home. I don’t have to look very far because the kitchen beckons me straight away.’

The icing on the cake: A £2m fortune from TV

Although best known for BBC’s Bake Off, which she judged alongside Paul Hollywood from 2010, the much-loved reality show wasn’t Mary’s first foray onto the small screen.

She first appeared on television in 1973, aged 38, presenting a segment on The Good Afternoon Show.

But it was her role in helping boost Bake Off ratings to an astonishing 14 million viewers that proved lucrative, with Mary earning a reported £70,000 a series, which would total £490,000 for her seven-series stint.

When the show’s maker, Love Productions, defected to Channel 4, Mary declared she would not be moving ‘out of loyalty’ to the BBC. Her loyalty appears to have paid off, as she has barely been off our screens since. A 2017 six-part cookery series, Mary Berry Everyday, was followed by Mary Berry’s Country House Secrets.

Accounts filed to Companies House show her firm, Mary Berry Ltd, increased its profit by over £400,000 to £1,167,374 between 2016 and 2017.

In 2018 she was a judge on BBC One reality series Britain’s Best Home Cook, which returned for a second series this January. Last month saw the start of yet another series, BBC Two’s Mary Berry’s Simple Comforts.

In addition, there have been several notable one-off television appearances. Assuming Mary has been paid around £100,000 a series since Bake Off — plus extra for one-off programmes — she can expect to have become very rich indeed from her television work.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.