Let us know your background in the food industry?
Over my 30 years in the industry, I’ve worked in various management and sales and marketing roles for a number of PLC’s including Cadburys, Premier Brands, Chivers Hartley and Danisco.
What was your light bulb moment?
Our family loved maple syrup, but in 2008 it was a real bad harvest and prices doubled over night. So, I set about looking for an ingredient that was natural like maple syrup but with very little taste, I definitely didn’t want to use sugar syrup After much searching I came across carob syrup which through filtering became a clear tasteless syrup, so when blended with maple syrup, the only taste was maple – carob syrup also has low glycemic index, so suitable for diabetics
How did you find your passion in this industry?
I’ve always loved food, but had a passion to experiment and look for new ways of doing things – I also launched a No Nut Nutty chocolate spread – that tasted nutty but was completely nut free so suitable for people with nut allergies.
What was your big break into the industry?
Getting Asda to list my first maple syrup line that I had made in my kitchen at home.
At the time I didn’t have a factory, machinery, staff or suppliers, with only 3 months before I had to supply them.
What key advice would you give to a company entering the awards?
Think about what makes your company special and helps it stand out from the competition – it might be a particular ingredient or process or unique packaging.
For Clarks it’s was the process of packing pure maple syrup in a squeezy bottles which even the Canadians hadn’t worked out how to do and so we were able to pick up customers from around the world.
What’s the hardest thing about business?
The business becomes your focus and it’s the effect and impact on your family.
I gave up a well-paid job to start Clarks and it was just after the birth of our second son and also having moved into a new house, which we then put as collateral for the bank to cover a short-term loan.
Have the fully support and commitment of your family is so important and without their sacrifice and love, which allows you to pursue your dream, running and growing a business would be impossible.
What future challenges do you see for Welsh food and drink businesses?
Business will always be challenging although given the current market and economic conditions we are in for a difficult few years. That said, the companies that can adapt and innovate will still thrive and it’s surprising how many opportunities and doors will open as customers search for alternative suppliers.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you had been given when starting in the food and drink industry?
Keep it simple and focused – if things don’t work then stop, fail fast could help you survive.