Photography by Rose Baylis
Jonathan Warburton is the Chairman of Warburtons Bakery. A 5th generation Warburton, he has managed the Bolton company’s transition into the UK’s biggest bakery brand. Jonathan has overseen and starred in the company’s iconic TV advertising campaigns which feature some of Hollywood’s elite, including: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, George Clooney and The Muppets.
The Warburtons delivery truck - a familiar site around the UK
Born in Bolton in 1957, Jonathan has held the position of Chairman of the family business since 2001. He began his career outside of Warburtons, spending time gaining knowledge of the baking industry, as well as sales and marketing during his time with Unilever. He joined Warburtons at the age of 23, progressing from National Account Manager to Sales Director and then Marketing Director. Jonathan – along with cousins Brett and Ross – assumed control of the business in 1991, following the retirement of their fathers.
In the decade that followed, Jonathan held the role of joint Managing Director and Commercial Director, laying out the three cousins’ strategy to take the family business from a Northern brand to a truly national one and setting out their vision to become Britain’s Favourite Baker.
Sylvester Stallone - the bakery's first big campaign name
De Niro muscles in on the Warburtons bagel business
Jonathan has become a familiar face on our TV screens, co-starring alongside Hollywood and TV greats in the iconic Warburtons bakery adverts. Sylvester Stallone was the first to be persuaded buy Jonathan to star in the commercials. Peter Kay and Miss Piggy followed. 2019 saw the the bakery audaciously signing up Robert De Niro to promote their range of bagels. Most recently, George Clooney joined the franchise, filmed during the pandemic. The advert sees a frustrated Clooney trying to Zoom call a distracted Jonathan on his toast break. Jonathan explains: “The Clooney advert focuses on Warburtons Toastie White Bread, we can blame - or perhaps credit - the pandemic with that one, sales of sliced loaves went through the roof… I think its a comfort thing that goes back to people’s childhoods.”
Jonathan & Kermit
Fellow Boltonians, Jonathan & Peter Kay
Frustrated zoomer, George Clooney
So now I’ve done five pieces of acting in my whole life — and my co-stars have been Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Miss Piggy, Peter Kay and now George Clooney. I’m not sure you’d find many proper actors who can say that.”
Jonathan received an Honorary Doctorate from Manchester University in 2003. He is married to Kim and they have four children, Charlotte, twins Harry and Jack, and Angus.
THE SHOOT: Warburtons Bakery, Bolton
Jonathan's office and the bakery's Research and Innovation Centre
Student reflection: Rose Baylis
The shoot took place at the Warburton Bakery HQ in Bolton where we were given a warm welcome. We met Jonathan in his office where the first half of the shoot took place. He was very chatty and really interested and complementary about the project. We photographed using a mixture of natural and artificial light - which is always tricky - but our trusty LED wand gave us the extra lighting option we needed.
We then made the short walk to the bakery’s impressive Research and Innovation Centre for the second half of the shoot. It is here where Warburtons develop and improve their baking techniques. This space was well lit and easier to photograph in. Always comfortable in front of the camera, Jonathan suggested we photograph him kneading dough which made a great fun shot. We completed the shoot by taking the opportunity to photograph him with the bakery’s many products.
Jonathan’s down to earth, genial character really comes across in the final blog and picture gallery. His achievements and loyalty to his home town make him the perfect fit for the Greater Mancunians project.