From house kitchen hobbyist to thriving SME

Firm: ​Joe & Seph’s Deal with:​ 3 Willen Discipline Rd, London NW10 7BQ Variety of workers: ​Approx. 60-70 Measurement of web site: ​26,000ft2 ​ Forms of strains: ​ Connoisseur popcorn vary, obtainable in 80 flavours (rising to 85 this yr)

Chocolate popcorn bites vary, obtainable in three flavours

Caramel sauce vary, obtainable in in eight flavours

Popcorn bar vary, obtainable in 5 flavours

Gifting and seasonal vary, obtainable in approx. 20 flavours

It wasn’t actually a enterprise at the beginning, it was my dad’s interest to make popcorn and he had all the time 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 other ways they made popcorn and the totally 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 guardian’s kitchen desk with a financial institution overdraft, there was no massive funding. We had been what I name a ‘challenger model’ – a smaller model ‘punching above its weight’, going up towards a number of the larger firms. We needed to make the most effective tasting popcorn and disrupt the class, which on the time, we felt was a bit boring.

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

There have been 4 of us concerned at first – all household – and we did a little bit of every thing for the primary 9 years. In 2019 we formulised it a bit extra, I grew to become managing director, my brother the industrial director and my dad and mom, who’re nonetheless a part of the enterprise, sit extra as non-executives now.

We’ve roughly 60-70 individuals on web site, with every thing occurring beneath one roof. It’s all handmade and since every thing 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 ultimately. Somebody stated to me not too long ago that an MD needs to be like ‘the conductor of the orchestra’ – and I feel that’s a very nice manner 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 present import our popcorn kernels – we will’t get a ok high quality kernel within the UK but sadly; it grows greatest in sunnier climates the place it doesn’t rain. You have a tendency to seek out them within the South of France, South American or South Africa, for instance.

We are going to carry the kernels on web site in addition to contemporary butter from the UK, and all of the totally different substances 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 completed quite a lot of R&D to stop 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 are going to then mix with butter and sugar to create a caramel, and whichever substances are wanted for that exact 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 shapes – from pouches to small reward baggage and creation calendars. It then will get shipped out to our clients – lots of that are within the UK, however we now additionally provide 19 different international locations world wide. The corporate now boasts greater than 80 Nice Style awards and has additionally received 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 manner is difficult as a course of.

However I might say the most important problem with popcorn might be round texture as a result of that’s the factor everybody has an opinion on, extra so than the rest. And if you’re including in numerous sorts of substances, some popcorns will naturally develop into 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 an alternative, 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 manner the place every particular person piece is separated from one other.

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

Many fingers in lots of locations

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

We do nonetheless have equipment, in fact, and we use it within the phases the place there isn’t any advantage of fingers. Naturally, for a smaller firm if you begin, you may’t afford equipment and also you are likely to have extra individuals; extra time you assign roles to equipment the place human time just isn’t greatest spent. For instance, putting popcorn into baggage just isn’t use of time, however making the popcorn, that’s the place individuals are wanted – in making it style superb and getting your ‘voice’ into the items.

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

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

A big retailer began working with us not too long ago 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 additionally employed a brand new technical supervisor.

Over time, you get higher and higher at what you’re doing – bettering your technical means, 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 probably. The trickiest factor about being handmade is consistency in flavour!

Tendencies and future focus

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

Proper now we’re targeted on inexpensive indulgence, which is a large pattern. Folks need to spend a bit extra on a deal with as an alternative of a lot of cash on going out for a dinner or evening out. So we’re exploring how we will ship on that, making popcorn extra pleasing and enjoyable, with dessert impressed ranges for instance.

Popcorn performs nicely into the indulgence pattern as a result of it’s typically linked to constructive reminiscences like watching a movie on the cinema. Individuals are often transported again to a constructive place after 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 fascinating with the media generally is one other a part of our technique, to indicate individuals what we do right here is premium and totally different. There are only a few snacking manufacturers left which might be impartial and household owned – so we now 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.