Taking our story back to 2012, we were delighted to have had Moorish Smoked Humous stocked in some gorgeous London retailers (Wholefoods and Planet Organic).
But now I decided that it was time to contact Waitrose, as with our premium “foodie” product; they were an obvious choice for getting our products out to more of our likely customers.
Plus, I was conscious that we’d be copied once people saw our success (we were, but a very poor copy so it helped rather than hindered) and I wanted Waitrose to hear about my smoked humous first.
Amazing luck – and a buyer with a great palate!
I thought it would probably take a year or two to get on the shelf at Waitrose, but a day after sending in my email, they replied asking me to come in. I brought samples to the buyer in the meeting and was delighted that she couldn’t stop eating them. A couple of weeks later I got the phone call any food entrepreneur would love: Waitrose wanted to list my products within the next couple of months. Champagne was on the menu at home that night; big smiles all round.
The listing with Waitrose now secured, I suddenly had to find a way to fulfil large orders, improve the packaging and find a bigger smokery to take on the smoked chickpea work for me. Not surprisingly though, telling people I had a Waitrose listing made them much more interested in talking to me.
Steps to larger production
- First, I found a smokery and spent a fair bit of time there trialling the wood used, the length of time of smoking and the other technical aspects involved in making the end product just right.
- Naturally, I also asked my existing factory in Birmingham if they’d like the Waitrose contract. Unfortunately they were unable to take it on – they only made dips for me so they’d have had to invest in large machinery – not feasible in the space they had available. Fortunately my ever-helpful mentor was able to put me in touch with a manufacturing consultant who helped me to find the right factory to supply Waitrose. One of those we found seemed like a winner, as they specialised in dips and so had the machinery we needed. They also already had product going into Waitrose; which would make supply lines easier to manage.
- It’s worth mentioning the steps I took at this point to protect my idea: I know how important our unique recipes have been to our success. That’s why I always ask potential business associates to sign a non-disclosure agreement before discussing details. Only after this did I discuss my idea with the factory: after all, they already worked with a competitor firm.
- Happily, once we’d discussed my idea and the recipe, and i’d supplied raw ingredients; I was really pleased with the prototype the factory kitchen produced. More crucially, we all seemed to get on well, with an honest and upfront working relationship from the outset, which has stood us in good stead through the ups and downs.
- My manufacturing consultant then helped me draw up a contract to agree that the factory would source all my ingredients, make the products and help with distribution. Crucially this would all be to my specifications; for example, the quality of the ingredients is really important in our recipes. We also insist on Rapeseed oil as we can source it from the UK. And the recipe is only right when I’m happy!
- We then agreed on the costings and started working together – but nothing is ever-straightforward. Moving factory meant having to repeat some steps in the process I’d already been through, e.g. Shelf life testing, since every factory gets different results even with the same recipe. The packaging also needed to be re-formatted to suit the needs of the production line as well as the supermarket shelves.
- The last major piece of the jigsaw was to set up a distributor to physically get our products from the factory to the shelves. Luckily with a product already going along this route from the factory, the same distributor agreed to take Moorish as well.
- In October last year, excitingly, we started larger scale production for Moorish in London and started delivering in to Waitrose on a regular basis.