From dwelling kitchen hobbyist to thriving SME

Firm: ​Joe & Seph’s Deal with:​ 3 Willen Area Rd, London NW10 7BQ Variety of staff: ​Approx. 60-70 Dimension of web site: ​26,000ft2 ​ Kinds of strains: ​ Gourmand popcorn vary, accessible in 80 flavours (rising to 85 this yr)

Chocolate popcorn bites vary, accessible in three flavours

Caramel sauce vary, accessible in in eight flavours

Popcorn bar vary, accessible in 5 flavours

Gifting and seasonal vary, accessible in approx. 20 flavours

It wasn’t actually a enterprise initially, it was my dad’s pastime to make popcorn and he had at all times vowed when he retired – which he did in 2005 – that he would arrange a popcorn enterprise.

For years he was impressed by popcorn within the US, which was a a lot larger market than the UK again then. He noticed the alternative ways they made popcorn and the completely different flavours, while within the UK all we had was candy and salty and sometimes the standard wasn’t that nice.

It began from my mum or dad’s kitchen desk with a financial institution overdraft, there was no large funding. We had been what I name a ‘challenger model’ – a smaller model ‘punching above its weight’, going up in opposition to a few of the larger firms. We needed to make the very best tasting popcorn and disrupt the class, which on the time, we felt was a bit uninteresting.

My dad began to experiment with flavours and in 2010, we determined to e book a shopper present simply to see if there anybody who would truly purchase it. By the tip of day two, we had bought out. We had six flavours on the time and that was the start of Joe & Seph’s.

There have been 4 of us concerned firstly – all household – and we did a little bit of the whole lot for the primary 9 years. In 2019 we formulised it a bit extra, I grew to become managing director, my brother the business director and my mother and father, who’re nonetheless a part of the enterprise, sit extra as non-executives now.

We’ve got roughly 60-70 individuals on web site, with the whole lot occurring beneath one roof. It’s all handmade and since the whole lot is dealt with on one web site, no two days are the identical for me – there’s each potential a part of the enterprise for me to become involved with in a roundabout way. Somebody mentioned to me lately that an MD must be like ‘the conductor of the orchestra’ – and I believe that’s a very nice approach of placing it. However when it is a enterprise as quick rising as ours, in actuality I’m conducting while enjoying a number of devices on the identical time!

How popcorn is made at Joe & Seph’s

We at the moment import our popcorn kernels – we are able to’t get a adequate high quality kernel within the UK but sadly; it grows finest in sunnier climates the place it doesn’t rain. You have a tendency to search out them within the South of France, South American or South Africa, for instance.

We’ll convey the kernels on web site in addition to contemporary butter from the UK, and all of the completely different components from their optimum areas, so for instance, if it’s goat cheese we’ll supply that from the Loire Valley in France and cheddar cheese from Eire.

We’ll pop the corn on web site utilizing some bespoke air popping machines that we have purchased and have purposed for our wants. These adaptions assist us to make it possible for our kernels pop larger than anybody else’s – that’s there’s no small items on the backside. We’ve got completed quite a lot of R&D to forestall this and create a better-quality finish product.

By popping with air and never oil, it avoids that oil tainted style, and it creates a more healthy product. We’ll then mix with butter and sugar to create a caramel, and whichever components are wanted for that individual flavour. For instance, our salted caramel contains sea salt flakes, and our gin and tonic flavour has actual gin and tonic water added.

The popcorn then cools and is packaged on web site into varied sizes and styles – from pouches to small present baggage and creation calendars. It then will get shipped out to our prospects – a lot of that are within the UK, however we now additionally provide 19 different international locations around the globe. The corporate now boasts greater than 80 Nice Style awards and has additionally gained the Queen’s Award for Export.

With our product, we actually need differentiate it from everybody else’s – higher style, larger measurement and a greater crunch. To do all these issues in a extra artisan approach is difficult as a course of.

However I might say the largest problem with popcorn might be round texture as a result of that’s the factor everybody has an opinion on, extra so than anything. And while you’re including in numerous sorts of components, some popcorns will naturally grow to be much less crunchy.

We spend quite a lot of time ensuring there’s consistency in our textures throughout all of the flavours and that the popcorn ‘pops’ within the mouth, in order that the client is getting a very nice expertise.

There are primarily two strategies to popcorn – coated and uncoated. For uncoated popcorn, it’s fried in scorching oil and since we don’t do this, we don’t profit from the crunch that gives. As a substitute, we’re utilizing scorching air and primarily coating it in a moist caramel; so the knack lies in ensuring the caramel units and units in a approach the place every particular person piece is separated from one other.

So the key is one among course of, greater than anything.

Many palms in lots of locations

Our popcorn is genuinely handmade, however it’s irritating what truly counts as handmade inside meals manufacturing. I’ve been to factories that are capable of make this declare, when actually there’s been one handmade stage in the entire course of. With Joe & Seph’s there are lots of, many palms at completely different phases. That’s what in the end offers us a degree of distinction – and it helps to get that spectacular flavour on each piece.

We do nonetheless have equipment, after all, and we use it within the phases the place there isn’t any good thing about palms. Naturally, for a smaller firm while you begin, you possibly can’t afford equipment and also you are likely to have extra individuals; time beyond regulation you assign roles to equipment the place human time just isn’t finest spent. For instance, inserting popcorn into baggage just isn’t a superb use of time, however making the popcorn, that’s the place individuals are wanted – in making it style wonderful and getting your ‘voice’ into the items.

So now we have over time invested cash into equipment to pack and bag and field, relatively than eradicating guide processes the place individuals are doing a terrific job.

We grew to become SALSA accredited fairly early on and now we have some actually nice processes in place to make sure that each product that we make is ‘excellent’ – and now we have not had any vital points up to now.

A big retailer began working with us lately and performed an audit – and this has simply elevated our requirements even additional. It has been nice to see and work with them. We’ve got additionally employed a brand new technical supervisor.

Over time, you get higher and higher at what you’re doing – enhancing your technical capacity, your consistency and high quality. However I wouldn’t say being a home made course of makes it riskier than a extra automated course of. Machines have items that may sort of fall off and trigger extra issues doubtlessly. The trickiest factor about being handmade is consistency in flavour!

Tendencies and future focus

Once we first began arising with flavour concepts, it was actually a case of no matter we may get our palms on within the kitchen cabinet. It then grew to become way more customer-led – if somebody requested, we’d have a go. Now now we have extra deliberate out ways – we glance to the market calls for and the place developments may be heading.

Proper now we’re centered on inexpensive indulgence, which is a big pattern. Individuals want to spend a bit extra on a deal with as an alternative of plenty of cash on going out for a dinner or evening out. So we’re exploring how we are able to ship on that, making popcorn extra satisfying and enjoyable, with dessert impressed ranges for instance.

Popcorn performs effectively into the indulgence pattern as a result of it’s typically linked to constructive reminiscences like watching a movie on the cinema. Individuals are normally transported again to a constructive place once they eat a bag, so why not make it much more enjoyable and thrilling. That’s sort of what our complete vary is about.

Our latest episode on Meals Unwrapped and interesting with the media normally is one other a part of our technique, to indicate individuals what we do right here is premium and completely different. There are only a few snacking manufacturers left which are impartial and household owned – so now we have a pleasant story and I hope that it evokes different individuals on the market making meals within the kitchen to see what’s potential.

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