Even though I now had the recipe consistently perfect, at a “BRC accredited” level; I still had a huge barrier to surmount in my supply chain: I needed someone to smoke my chickpeas for me.
I couldn’t find anything local online; it looked like it could be a deal-breaker: I won’t deny that I did feel disheartened.
Then one day, while the children were at school and I was restlessly trying to work out a plan, I had a brainwave. I decided to drive to my local butchers shop and ask if they had anyone local who smoked their bacon.
When I explained to the butcher than I had a crazy idea of smoking a ‘pea’ and needed a local smokehouse, he looked appropriately sceptical. However, he handed over a piece of paper with the name and number of a smoke-house, less than half an hour away from our house.
I rang and again explained my crazy request. The owner of the smoke house was a complete gentleman, he said he would love to help (and could smoke things separately from meat, another important factor) and so we met and started trials of smoking chickpeas.
Getting this bit right was much harder than I imagined. Unfortunately, the wood that the smokehouse used for other products happened to give a horrid, bitter flavour to the chickpeas.
Determined not to be beaten, I found a company that supplied wood chips for smoking and spoke to them at length about the type of wood we should use. It had to be from a sustainable source, giving great taste but not prohibitively expensive. Once I had decided on the wood, I drive across the country, filled up our people carrier with wood chips to deliver to my smoke house!
After four long months I finally had the smoked chickpeas right, I was happy with the manufacturing process in the factory and the finished product tasted great.
I had been holding off letting my mentor taste the smoked humous until the product was spot on. It was a great relief when we next met; she tried it and loved it. She happened to be heading to a meeting with one of the owners of Planet Organic (a chain of 5 fantastic shops across London, committed to selling high quality organic and natural food) and asked to take them some: of course I agreed.
A few hours later, I picked up a voicemail. It was my mentor telling me that the Planet Organic owner (who is someone who definitely knows his retail onions) loved it and said “Julie is REALLY on to something here”.
I could hear the excitement in my mentor’s voice as she said he’d asked me to get in touch with his buyer. I was fizzing too, this was just what we needed to grow and the positive feedback spurred me on tremendously.
Next, finding a family of products to enable us to launch a ‘range’ in London – more lateral thinking and a great relationship with another high quality supplier would keep us going down this exciting path……