Show Notes

Download episode MP3

Many food startups have humble beginnings – a pub, a garage, perhaps a spare room. Today’s guest is no different. Paul Hargreaves started Cotswold Fayre in his spare bedroom 20 years ago. Now, they are one of the most established wholesalers of speciality food in the UK. Learn how the industry has changed over the years, the 3 P’s of doing good and how Cotswold Fayre are helping food producers with two of the biggest problems in business.

In this episode you’ll learn

  • How the speciality food industry has evolved since the late 1990s
  • The two biggest issues faced by food producers and how to solve them
  • Some of the biggest trends in food right now
  • The 3 P’s of Good Business
  • The importance of putting in the work to get your products into the hands and mouths of customers

Notes & Links

Cotswold Fayre



Speciality & Fine Food Fair – Olympia London, 2-4 September 2018

Episode Transcript

Guy: [00:00:00] You’re listening to Good Foodies, and this is episode 20. Today we’re talking to Paul Hargreaves the founder and CEO of Cotswold Fayre. We talked about trends in the food industry and two of the biggest problems facing food producers in this modern day and age. So stay tuned.

Guy: [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to the show. My name is Guy Routledge from Sapling Digital and Eco & Beyond and I’m joined in the studio today by my co-host Kylie Ackers. Kylie, welcome to the show.

Kylie: [00:00:38] Hi everyone!

Guy: [00:00:39] Hello. So today we’ve got another fantastic interview lined up. We’re going to be speaking to Paul Hargreaves from Cotswold Fayre. He’s been in business for a very long time and has been there and done it all and seen all of the problems and all of the struggles and is also part of the solution. So Kylie, my question to you at the beginning of today’s episode is, what do you think the biggest problem facing a food producer is these days?

Kylie: [00:01:04] Oh wow, there’s many.

Guy: [00:01:05] But what’s the biggest one?

Kylie: [00:01:06] The biggest one I would say is getting a product to somewhere so that people can buy it. So getting their product onto the shelves somewhere.

Guy: [00:01:12] Yeah, that’s always the first problem, once you’ve made the product, which perhaps there’s all sorts of problems that come before that as well. Once you’ve got something to sell it’s getting it onto the shelves.

Kylie: [00:01:23] And that “on the shelves” can be either online or offline too. Physical shelves or a virtual shelf, either one is still considered on the shelf.

Guy: [00:01:30] Yeah, I completely agree. And in some ways it’s almost easier to get a product on to a virtual shelf because all you have to do is take some photos and upload a listing to your e-commerce website or to Amazon or to something like that. But yeah, problem number one: getting it onto the shelves. What do you think problem number two is?

Kylie: [00:01:46] Getting it off the shelves! Getting it into someone’s hands so that they give you some money.

Paul: [00:01:50] Yeah absolutely. And that is basically what Paul and his team at Cotswold Fayre are all about. So they’re a wholesaler and they’ve been working with small artisan producers for about 20 years now.

Kylie: [00:02:01] Wow, that’s a long time. He’s been around a while.

Guy: [00:02:04] So they’ve been working with small independent producers and helping them do exactly this. Getting their products onto the shelf and then helping them get the product moving as well. So let’s jump straight into that interview with Paul

The Interview

Paul: [00:02:19] Cotswold Fayre is a wholesaler of specialty food. Started from my spare bedroom, 20 years ago when I was doing charity work in South East London not really earning enough to feed my children who were fairly young at the time. So I started selling products from the Cotswolds, food and drink to local delis and then farm shops around the edge of London and that was how the business was born. Initially very part time and then it got to a point where actually we either need to do this properly or stop. Well you’ve probably guessed what we did, we tried to do it properly.

Guy: [00:03:01] It’s still going strong, almost 20 years later. Or just over 20 years is it?

Paul: [00:03:05] Yeah I mean you could say it was a great bit of planning, I foresee how the specialty food sector was going to grow over the last 20 years. But it wasn’t really that, it was just selling some food to earn some money. We happened to be in the right place at the right time, just as farm shops were becoming a big thing, garden centres started opening, food halls started springing up, and we were in the right place to have a good selection of British and Irish quality food and drink to sell to them basically.

Guy: [00:03:44] And so it started in your spare bedroom in South East London, did you say?

Paul: [00:03:47] That’s right.

Guy: [00:03:47] Yet the name that you came up with was Cotswold Fayre. Was there a particular reason behind that or was it very calculated?

Paul: [00:03:55] No. It was products from the Cotswolds originally. I knew a few producers and there just happened to be quite a lot of artisan food producers in the Cotswolds, so it started with four or five of them so the name seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s fine again now but for a number of years, it was confusing. Probably should have changed it but we didn’t and we’re stuck with it now. So people don’t think very geographically when they hear the name Cotswold Fayre because I think we’re fairly well known with the people that matter in the industry.

Guy: [00:04:34] Which is always a good thing but I think, the Cotswolds, I used to go to school in that area, so I guess that for anybody who knows of the Cotswolds, it conjures up an image of nice countryside and independence and stuff so I can almost imagine that it helped it to some extent.

Paul: [00:04:54] Absolutely, yes it did and it’s no-one really knows where it starts and where it finishes as well. It’s a slightly nebulous geographic area and I do actually live here now, by the way.

Guy: [00:05:07] Oh, right. So it’s come full circle.

Paul: [00:05:08] Yes, I do live in the Cotswolds now and for the last 14 years. So whilst I started in London, I’ve ended up in the Cotswolds but that’s a coincidence really. But you’re right I think it does sum up everything that’s good about Great Britain really, doesn’t it? The Cotswolds.

Guy: [00:05:28] Yeah, absolutely, beautiful countryside. So you were saying that it was really right place, right time but that was almost by accident almost rather than by design. So can we talk a little bit about the landscape of the independent food and drink world which is where you guys operate? So what was it back then that was really catching on? Why do you think that trend for the local farm shops and the garden centres, opening food halls, came about at that time?

Paul: [00:05:59] I think the TV chefs are probably a large part of that. People went from being not that interested in what they were putting in their mouths to caring a bit more. I mean some people still don’t, but a higher percentage of the population were starting to think more about the food and drink they were consuming, wanting better quality, that’s the kind of environment that was there. Over the last 20 years, that’s only increased exponentially really in that time. So you see some of the farm shops we supplied 20 years ago were really just sheds, that had been tacked onto a farm. The same places, and many people who were customers right at the beginning still are, but now rather than a shed, it’s a purpose built 10000 square foot building with 100 car parking spaces, so we really have just grown with those type of retailers and hopefully we’ll continue to do so.

Guy: [00:07:02] And do you think it’s just been this snowball that has continued to roll and gather speed and momentum and scale, in terms of what’s changed since the late 90’s when you guys started? Or are there other things that have really pushed this movement along?

Paul: [00:07:20] I think the lack of trust in the supermarkets is a fact that helped with that and I think people, I don’t have any stats on this, but people have, a lot of them still shop there, but a lot of people have fallen, even if they still shop there, they’ve fallen out of love with the weekly supermarket shop.

Guy: [00:07:42] That definitely does seem to have changed yeah.

Paul: [00:07:44] The horse meat crisis, four years ago was a big turning point particularly for farm shops with butcheries. I think there’s a lack of trust with big companies when it comes to food and there’s numerous examples over the last ten years on that. So it’s obviously only for people who have the money to choose, but there’s definitely a move towards buying from places where they can actually trust that they’re making the products how they say they make it, the picture of the farmer isn’t just a contrived marketing ploy but it actually is a real farmer who is growing these crops that you’re going to buy.

Paul: [00:08:29] So all that has helped as well. And more recently, the convenience shops have started to premium-ise too. So places that were seen as probably the bottom end of the pecking order when it comes to food and drink shops are now all stocking better products. The difference is absolutely phenomenal. I’d love to go back in time and just have a look around some of the shops that we now supply to see what they were like 20 years ago. The difference in terms of the quality of products they’ve got on the shelves is phenomenal and to be honest we are still behind most places in Europe – Italy, Spain they have cared about food for far longer than we are. We’re still playing catch up with them but the gap is smaller than it used to be.

Guy: [00:09:19] I definitely get the feeling that on the continent, they have much better fresh produce, and the availability of fresh produce, and the way that it’s presented as well. I was in Spain recently, and you walk into what is effectively a corner convenience store, and they’ve got amazing fresh fruit and veg, all out there, not in plastic but you can see it, you can pick it up, and the quality is incredible.

Guy: [00:09:43] So we’ve talked a little bit about how things have changed over the last 20 years or so in terms of people’s attitudes to food and the availability of good quality stuff. What are some of the things that you think are trending right now?

Paul: [00:09:55] One of the big ones is veganism or flexitarianism. So meat reducing diets, either totally or partially which plays into the small retailers’ hands because people for a while, I don’t know about you but I eat less meat than I used, but when I do, I’m choosing to eat better quality. Supermarket brands, brands in an artisan food shop, there are some areas of the market where their products are quite close. But I think with fresh products the difference when you pay more is phenomenal. So I tend not to eat too much supermarket meat and fish. So that’s a biggie, getting bigger. I was talking to the lady that organises Veganuary earlier this week and she is expecting 330000 people to partake in Veganuary this coming January (2019).

Guy: [00:10:56] Wow!

Kylie: [00:10:56] That’s not including the people who are vegans anyway. That’s just people who are doing it for the month of January. And that’s, I think going to be 60% up on this year’s figures. So that’s very interesting. We are taking note of that and watching with interest. I mean, we don’t do it, we don’t really sell meat and fish and about 95% of our products are vegan anyway. But what is noticeable is that even this it’s very obvious to me and you that a product is vegan, if you put vegan on the product, it sells better. There’s never been, elderflower presse, let’s say that, elderflower presse has never had any animal products in it ever by any manufacture, but if you put vegan on that bottle, it strangely it will sell faster than if you don’t.

Guy: [00:11:53] It is interesting isn’t it the way that that works. I mean there’s an expression that I’ve seen a few times now by people that I know who are either vegan or who are vegetarian and making that transition is they call it “accidentally vegan” and it’s quite a nice expression. Vegans are always on the lookout for things that they can eat it and I guess it’s the same with people who are gluten-free or dairy-free. That idea of just coming across something you are reading all the ingredients and it doesn’t have the things in there that you either can’t eat or choose not to eat it. But as soon as you make that clearer on the packaging then suddenly it takes a lot less time and so perhaps, you’re more likely to pick it up and buy it.

Paul: [00:12:32] Indeed, yes, and talking of packaging obviously that’s another trend isn’t it? Of reducing packaging, getting rid of plastic, not wasting food so there’s more whole animal eating going on. There’s parts of plants we didn’t used to eat that we’re now eating, including flowers actually. And then the big of one how the products get to the point of retail as well. How many lorries and vans it’s been on before it actually gets that, that’s really not a factor at the moment I don’t think. It’s certainly not for retailers but I do expect that to become a much bigger deal and they’ll have to be more transparency on that kind of area over the next few years.

Guy: [00:13:14] Definitely. I mean there’s lots of change happening in taste, and in the makeup of products, and the packaging as well. And I guess once that has had its change and has bedded in a bit and people get more used to all these new things then I guess the entrepreneurs will start turning their attention to things like supply chains and logistics and distribution which is currently still quite old school isn’t it?

Paul: [00:13:38] It is. I think from our producer and supplier end there’s quite a desire to be better at that. I’m not seeing that from retailers. There’s only one retailer customer of ours, Selfridges actually, that’s even mentioned reducing deliveries to their stores as part of the trend over the next few years. So I do think that’s something that retailers need to do to get better. But I’m talking here independent retailers, the supermarkets are probably doing quite a lot of that as they say. Most stuff comes in from very few supply routes. But the independent retailers have still got a lot to learn on that front.

Guy: [00:14:22] We’ve talked a little bit already or touched on certainly the idea of the difference between independent retail and big retail or the multiples, the supermarket. I think people often find it very difficult to get information about how the industry works and how there are different approaches and perhaps even different ways of getting your product into an independent store versus a big supermarket. I guess you connect the dots a little bit as a wholesaler. Can you tell us a little bit about how you see the industry working from your side of things?

Paul: [00:14:58] The biggest differences between now and 20 years ago is how many products there are. This is the big challenge for everyone. It’s relatively easy to create a food brand either making it yourself which is a bit more difficult, or more commonly these days finding a third party manufacturer to make a brand for you. So whilst it wasn’t easy, it’s never been easy, but 20 years ago it required a lot less marketing spend to get your brand above the parapet than it does now. So that is by far and away the biggest challenge. We have a lot of small producers come to us obviously looking to get some volume through. Some of them think, “Oh great, I’ve got a listing with Cotswold Fayre, I can just concentrate on making products, doing some new product design etc etc”.

Guy: [00:15:54] All the fun stuff that they want to do.

Paul: [00:15:56] Well, that’s probably what most of them are better at, not in all cases. But the fact they think they can just hand over to us and it will all work, is the problem. It doesn’t.

Guy: [00:16:08] So tell us, how it does work then, so that you can probably make your life easier as well. People will come to you asking the right questions and with the product at the right stage. How should producers be approaching you in particular but the industry as a whole?

Paul: [00:16:22] Well, one question I asked them when they come and have a meeting with me, although I don’t always do these meetings these days..

Guy: [00:16:29] You’re a busy man now.

Paul: [00:16:31] Say it’s a year, so how many retailers are stocking your products since you started a year ago? And, I’m absolutely gobsmacked sometimes by the answers that I get to that question. It can be as low as five.

Guy: [00:16:47] Wow!

Paul: [00:16:47] Or it can be as low as 30. When I started, okay. The market is more crowded but when I started Cotswold Fayre, I used to go out with my car full of samples and I really didn’t come home until I’d got into four new retailers that day.

Guy: [00:17:05] Ambitious.

Paul: [00:17:06] Well, I did it most days.

Guy: [00:17:09] You had the ambition to go out and do it and you knew that you had to do it otherwise it wasn’t gonna go anywhere.

Paul: [00:17:14] Yeah, exactly and particularly, I don’t want to sound too old here but I am, sadly. The millennial generation.

Guy: [00:17:22] That’s the beauty of radio.

Paul: [00:17:27] A lot of them think that: get a good social media program going and it’ll all happen. Brilliant! I’ll ride off into the sunset with my millions stashed in my back pocket. It doesn’t work like that. The old fashioned way is still the best way of doing things. So we track how our new customers come to us and by far away the vast majority of them are still from my sales team knocking on people’s doors. Second is trade shows and it’s a lot of hard work and then even when you’ve got into a shop with a new brand, they then need to work to get the stuff off the shelves of that shop, or the fridges of that shop, by doing tastings. So one thing we get our new suppliers to commit to in year one is basically, being fully available to spend their Saturdays and Fridays or maybe Sundays standing in one of our customers stores, tasting their product with customers. That’s really the only way it works. You’ve got to get your products in people’s mouth. You can have the best packaging in the world, best prices, best tasting product, but unless you put in the hours it simply won’t work. There does seem to be a bit of an aversion to doing that hard hand-dirty-ing work than there used to be. A lot of the brands that we worked with, that we have always worked with since the beginning, are reasonable sized companies, but they did all that at the beginning. Now, they probably don’t need to now because they’ve got a brand. People are aware of it. But if you’re starting from nothing there really is no substitute for hard work.

Guy: [00:19:12] And it’s also a great way to get feedback as well because you’re able to watch the potential customer pick it up, look at it and you can start to get a feel for what their thought process is, how they’re understanding it. You can even see them when they put it in their mouths and taste it and see that split second reaction. Such a valuable source of data.

Paul: [00:19:32] Yeah, it helps them change, maybe tweak the packaging, develop new products, come up with new ideas. All that stuff is essential if you’re going to have a brand that works. Most people’s first stab at a product, it lasts a year and they think: right, I need to change that, need to change this. It’s very rare that the first product you ever make is a success that stays the same for five years. So you’re spot on, engaging with consumers is absolutely key.

Guy: [00:20:03] And just so I can get it completely straight in my head, and for the benefit of everybody listening, you guys work as a wholesaler. So a producer, let’s say they make a peanut butter or something like that, they approach you to do the distribution of their product, their peanut butter, to lots of independent retailers around the country. Is that about right?

Paul: [00:20:23] Well, sales and distribution yes. We basically are a sales and distribution company. But inevitably, with the smaller brands, we end up doing some marketing for them as well by the various lots of things that we do throughout the year. But yes, we hope they’re good at making products, we’re no good at that. What we’re good at is getting products onto retailers shelves. We can get products onto 200 retailers shelves fairly quickly if there’s a good product – that still doesn’t make success. As I said earlier, it is about getting that product moving off the shelves. Otherwise, those retailers will de-list it and it won’t get any traction. So the hard work from them is required on the pull side of the piece.

Guy: [00:21:17] Yeah and perhaps, we can talk a little bit about the sales and marketing side of what you guys do a bit later on. The one thing I’m really keen to talk about, because it’s something that goes through your whole business at a fairly deep level, is you’re B-Corp certified. I believe that’s something you’ve had for a couple of years now, but can you tell us, for the benefit of everybody listening, can you just give us a quick overview of what that means? And then we can perhaps, talk about how it started and where you went from there.

Paul: [00:21:45] Okay. So companies that are B-Corp, and B-Corp doesn’t have exclusivity on purpose driven businesses by the way, but at the moment..

Guy: [00:21:53] Very true, yes.

Paul: [00:21:56] So they’re about businesses that are trying to change the world into a better place and very simply can be summed up in three P’s. Which one is profit – yes, we’re still trying to make a profit here doing what we’re doing. But whilst most businesses throughout history have really only been about profit sometimes at the exclusion of human rights and the planet and everything else. B-Corp businesses describe themselves as having a triple bottom line. So one is Profit, second is People, and third is the Planet. So the people side is your own people, your customers, suppliers, underserved communities perhaps in different parts of the world and obviously the planet is the whole environmental area. So they’re companies that are acting to make sure that they are behaving excellently in all those areas. And funnily enough, the ones that do care about the planet, do care about their people and other people, often make more profit.

Guy: [00:23:07] Yeah completely agree and it’s something that I’ve heard from a few people that we’ve had on this show recently. And that way of thinking about business is definitely another trend that we’re starting to see. And this is excellent news for so many different aspects of what these people are doing which is great. So I was going to ask, what was it that prompted you to go into this?

Paul: [00:23:32] What I didn’t say at the beginning was when I started Cotswold Fayre I was actually doing charity work in South East London which was at the time, it’s come up a bit since then, but it was a lot of work with drug addicts, kids, loads of poverty. I went to prison probably about 50 times but not as an inmate.

Guy: [00:23:52] Not you.

Paul: [00:23:53] Well, I did. But as I was a visitor.

Guy: [00:23:55] As a visitor, right. Yeah, I thought we’d better clarify that.

Paul: [00:23:58] The right side of the bars. So yes I was working away there. In the business, yes, it was a bit of an accident but I’ve always thought that businesses had a role in trying to change the world into a better place. So initially, when I started Cotswold Faye, we did have two of the first four employees, one was a ex-drug addict, who was an ex-alcoholic. So I could see that employing people in an ethical business who had issues, might find it difficult to get employment elsewhere, was something that businesses could do to to make the world a better place. So that’s where I started from. Probably, to be honest with you, we tried to do too much too soon and needed to concentrate on actually having a business that was making profit in order to be able to do more. But about eight or nine years ago we came back to it, we had a successful business by then, and we started to get involved with a children’s charity in Kenya. We go over there, we run projects over there that help them be more sustainable and the whole team at Cotswold Fayre is very aware of what we’re doing there. There’s various events to help and quite a few of them have been over there too. B-Corp, we were doing all that stuff, and then I heard about B-Corp through another B-Corp actually, Cook who are the frozen food company, a customer of ours.

Guy: [00:25:41] They make fantastic meals I have to say. We’ve got a few of them in the freezer. They’re brilliant on a night when you don’t want to cook anything, because you’re a bit tired, because you’ve been running a business all day.

Paul: [00:25:49] Well, you and many million others I think. They’re doing very well. So I knew about B-Corp through Ed, who’s one of the directors of Cook, and found out more, and my first thought was great, here’s a load of people believing what I believe doing what I believe. I’m gonna join. I felt a bit like we were out on a limb doing this stuff and it was so encouraging to know that there were lots of other companies with the same aims of using business to change the world for better.

Guy: [00:26:29] And so is there a bit of a community feel between the other businesses who are B-Corp certified. Or is it that you’re just doing your own thing independently but know that together there is this movement?

Paul: [00:26:40] That’s a good question. To some degree, yes, I mean I know people have also encouraged our suppliers to become B-Corp. So we’re creating that community ourselves, probably in the UK it’s slightly London-centric. We’re not in London. But as it grows, definitely, yes, and it’s a great resource to ask people, “right we want a make sure we’re buying sustainable electricity for our business, where do we go? We want to offset our carbon for our company vehicles, What’s the best place and way of doing that?” So it’s a good resource and the assessment is very challenging to get through the bar. We first certified in 2015. Every two years, you have to recertify.

Guy: [00:27:30] Ah, I didn’t realise that.

Paul: [00:27:32] Yeah. And so I know we were a lot better than we were in 2015 and yet we scored exactly the same score only because the bar has raised considerably as time goes on. What it’s creating really is the new normal isn’t it?

Guy: [00:27:49] Yeah absolutely. And the thing that is I think really great about B-Corp is that, like you said, it’s those three P’s of profit, people and the planet. And it means that perhaps you could focus on one more than the other. But it means that you’re getting that good balance across the board which is a noble cause for sure.

Paul: [00:28:08] The certification process is quite easy if you’re running a consultancy or a company that’s helping people offset their carbon. It’s actually relatively easy to get over the line. But for dirty businesses, if you like, like distribution, like us, or like making food, like Cook, it’s a lot harder. It is a lot more challenging to get over the points that you need to be a B-Corp. It does constantly challenge us to think about everything we’re doing and to change accordingly. I mean, I wish, it will come I think in the next two years, but at the moment, we can’t do our deliveries with electric vehicles because the distances are too large, but in two or three years time I hope we will run an electric fleet doing all our distribution. Same with the sales people’s cars. But it’s all about moving forward. I think, there’s a disillusionment, particularly with younger people coming through, about working for corporates, and generally they’d much rather work for companies like us that are trying to make a positive difference to the world. So it does actually help you get better people working for you as well.

Guy: [00:29:32] Speaking of change, there is something else that has changed over your 20-year period. I think I’ve read somewhere that you had recently changed the overall business model from being like a logistics company to being more of the sales and marketing company and you’ve touched on it a little bit. Can you speak to that a bit?

Paul: [00:29:50] Obviously, I’m a really a sales and marketing person. The only three years I’ve ever had proper employment, I was a salesperson before I got into the charity work, and I’m now unemployable by the way, by other people.

Guy: [00:30:03] I used that expression to describe myself as well.

Paul: [00:30:07] Yeah. No-one would have me. Yeah. So our work, we needed to move anyway. The warehouse was too small and we had just had someone else doing our warehousing and logistics as one of the options and as we looked on it, obviously it had to be the right price. So it was coming in actually about the same as us doing it ourselves. And it became more and more attractive, particularly for me actually, I shouldn’t really say this but I’m actually, hate logistics. It’s not me, whatsoever. Our strengths as a business are in the sales and marketing area, not logistics. And we did logistics and we ran a fairly tight ship for a number of years and it all happened, but it wasn’t really what I planned to start when I started the business. But you end up with a company that’s moving nearly a million boxes around the UK in a year. We thought, why don’t we get someone where that is their area of expertise, the warehousing side. Our area of expertise is really sales and marketing. They are good at what they do, in fact, they’re better than us at that stuff and they enjoy it even better. So we did make that big change in 2016. And prior to that, we had actually, for our first time in our history, we had two years, a completely flat growth i.e. no growth at all.

Paul: [00:31:45] And once we outsourced, it took six months or so, then we started growing again and we’re now back on our normal growth trajectory which is 15% at least in the times since we did that. So it was a headspace thing really. We can concentrate on growing the business rather than worrying about logistics, things like our order fulfilment levels have gone up significantly since we did it. Everyone in the company is happier than they were before. We did a staff survey about a year after we made this change and one very simple questions on the survey was: Do you enjoy going to work? Yes or No? And we actually had a 100% yes’s.

Guy: [00:32:32] That’s brilliant to hear. And so when you say you’re now a sales and marketing business, does that mean that you’re doing sales and marketing of the producer’s products that you’re wholesaling or how does that work exactly? Can you paint a picture of it for us?

Paul: [00:32:47] Yeah. So obviously, we do marketing that is marketing us and within Cotswold Fayre there’s an umbrella of products but we are a vehicle for them really to grow their brands. So over half the team of Cotswold Fayre is either engaged in sales or marketing and the rest are buying, accounts and customer service. So yes, we have a field sales team, we have national account managers and we have telesales team, all looking after different customers. I’m trying to be, I’m very keen on this, that we were not seen as salespeople actually but we’re seen as people who can help those retailers increase their turnover. I think that completely changes the perspective. There’s some very bad salespeople around us – sales generally have quite a bad name for people who they’ve pressurised into buying something. But I think if they’re seen as people who are the retailers’ friend, and actually by looking at what they’re buying when they’re buying it and maybe getting them to stop buying certain slow moving lines, they can actually help the retailer make more money. And that’s really the business we’re in, and obviously some of the marketing we do helps the retailer shift the products off their shelves. As I said before, we need suppliers to do that as well. But we’re a good option for a producer who wants not just to sell some stuff to a wholesaler. I’ve never really been into that. What we want is people making good products who are very happy to work in partnership with us and grow our mutual businesses symbiotically.

Guy: [00:34:32] You’re now a good 20 years into your business journey and no doubt there’s still some challenges but there’s been lots of successes as well and lots of experience gained over that time. What would be one piece of advice that you would give people who are at the very beginning, perhaps, who are like one of your independent producers? What would you say to them?

Paul: [00:34:50] Just one. If there’s one, well if it is just one, I would say, the mistakes I’ve made have always been when I’ve not gone with my gut – so go with your gut feeling. Don’t listen to other people if they, well obviously you need to listen to them, but generally, your first feeling about something is the right one. And that’s something I try to do. If I’m allowed another one, I would say make sure you continue to do what you enjoy doing and always, when you stray into an area “actually, I’m doing this, not enjoying it”, make sure you get someone else to do that who does enjoy it and you stick to doing what you enjoy. There’s too many hours in our working week to not enjoy life and if work becomes unpleasurable then it’s not good for you or your health and it’s not good for the people who work for you. Stick to what you good at and make sure you continue doing what you enjoy which is generally what you’re good at.

Guy: [00:35:53] Paul Hargreaves from Cotswold Fayre and you can find out more about them at For a handy link to everything that they’re up to over there, just head to our website, and check out the show notes. Still to come today are resource of the week. But up next, are lessons learned.

Lessons Learned

Kylie: [00:36:17] So the key thing that I heard all the way through that interview was all about the marketing and just to quote Paul, he said “marketing is the new challenge”. I don’t think it’s actually a new challenge, I think it’s just a bigger challenge than it was before.

Guy: [00:36:31] Yeah, I think it’s definitely key. I mean, he talked quite a bit about the landscape of the food industry now, which is so different from when they started 20 years ago because there is so much choice and so many different kinds of products with all sorts of different either benefits or supplements or the vegan stuff being huge as well – there’s so much choice. And so to stand out, you’ve got to have a great product but then you’ve really got to market that product and get it into the hands and literally get it into the mouths of customers.

Kylie: [00:37:01] The flip side of that though is that customers are looking for new products. They’re looking for brands that they trust, brands that are transparent, brands that aren’t the big supermarket brands and aren’t the big food brands. So there are customers out there looking for new and interesting and independent brands. And so the challenge really is matching the two sides, as a food producer, getting your product so that they can find it. And so whether you have your own e-commerce store or whether you’re in independents or even a supermarket, getting on the shelf is really just very much like half a step and then you’ve got another 10 steps after that to actually get your product into consumers’ hands so that they return and buy it regularly.

Guy: [00:37:41] Yes and certainly, Paul was speaking a lot to the hard graft of going out there – whether it’s you making the sales or whether it’s you just being there sampling in-store to help customers understand what it is that you do and have that opportunity to tell your story as well and introduce them to your product, to the flavours and to why it’s different. I think it’s hugely important. But of course, there’s also the other aspect to marketing which we didn’t touch on too much in the interview but the digital side of it as well.

Kylie: [00:38:08] And that’s where I think that social media, your own website, and all the different bits and pieces that you can do online really play an important part especially as you’re starting out and you may not have, I guess the experience and the time to run around and do as much as you’d like, but you can do a lot on social media, a lot online from the comfort of your own home almost.

Guy: [00:38:27] Yeah and I think it’s important to see those two things working together. I think if someone tried to do purely online it wouldn’t be enough. You have to have that person to person experience but equally, if you are only doing in-person stuff, you’re perhaps losing the benefit of the one to many scale that you can get with doing stuff digitally and online.

Kylie: [00:38:46] Yeah, I agree. And one of the other things that Paul said there is the importance of engaging with customers. And while you can do that to a certain degree on social media, I think the in-person stuff, the sampling, the tasting, the watching what they say rather than what they actually say is really key especially when you’re in the infancy of a food brand.

Guy: [00:39:04] Yeah for sure and I think something that we both made a note of was the importance of playing to your strengths. I think it was the thing that Paul said right at the end there, do what you’re good at and do what you love which is usually the thing that you’re also good at. And so whether that means either outsourcing the bits that you don’t want, like if you’re not a confident salesperson then outsource it to Cotswold Fayre. If you’re not great with writing copy or taking photos for your marketing materials then bring on a team or hire people to help you do that.

Kylie: [00:39:32] Yeah, there’s no point building a business and then doing the things that you don’t like. The whole reason for many people is that they want to do something that they enjoy, and so, identify what it is you’re good at as well as what you like doing. Hopefully, they match up and double down on that and then just bring in help for all the other bits and pieces that you need to get your brand growing.

Guy: [00:39:51] Yeah and it sounds so simple and I guess that’s because it is. But even though it’s simple, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy which is something that we often say around here all the time. So yes, whilst on one hand, it is simple to do what you’re good at and to bring on people to do everything else, sometimes that feels a bit overwhelming, even a little bit challenging, but it’s so important to identify all those bits and pieces so that you can focus on not just the thing that you enjoy the most, but the thing that makes the biggest difference. So Kylie did you have anything else there?

Kylie: [00:40:17] No, I think that was it. I just wanted to iterate, like Paul said, there is a massive change in the market with people looking for brands that they trust and for something different than what’s in the supermarket. So I think that there is a massive opportunity for the smaller brands to really take part of that market share away from the big boys.

Guy: [00:40:34] Yeah, I guess the other thing that went through this interview was the part about good business particularly from a B-Corp stance; businesses that are about making a profit. I guess on one hand that is at the product level in terms of things that taste different or have different benefits or flavours from different parts of the world. But then it’s also that change in terms of doing good business. And I love that simple approach to people, planet and profit that Paul was talking about and I think he’d said something along the lines of this is becoming the new normal. I mean it’s definitely something that we’re all about and great to see that it’s not just us that thinks that.

Kylie: [00:41:05] Yeah, definitely a growing movement.

Guy: [00:41:06] Absolutely. Cool! I think we’ll we’ll wrap this up and let’s move on to our final section today, the resource of the week.

Resource of the Week

Guy: [00:41:16] Okay, our resource of the week, this week is not an app and it is not a book. It is an event. Kylie what is our resource this week?

Kylie: [00:41:25] This week we’re going to talk about these Speciality Food Fair which is held in London!

Guy: [00:41:30] Yes, this September, in London at London Olympia between the 2nd and 4th of September, the Speciality and Fine Food Fair returns. It’s an amazing event with hundreds, literally hundreds of producers, and Cotswold Fayre are going to be there in person. So we thought, there would be a nice way to link these two things together. So Paul’s team are going to be there with I think about 40 different producers, showcasing the stuff that they do. It’s a brilliant place to go whether you want to go and exhibit or whether you just want to look around and see what’s hot on the speciality food scene.

Kylie: [00:42:03] It’s a great way to network as well so you can go and find other producers like you or that you might want to partner with for some promotions or whatever. It’s just a great way to hook up with other people in this space and have a chat about what they’re doing.

Guy: [00:42:18] Absolutely, and you’ll be surrounded by people who work in the industry because it’s one of these trade only events and as long as you can prove that you work in food in some way shape or form, then entries is free as well.

Kylie: [00:42:30] So make sure you put on some good walking shoes because I tell you there is a lot of walking to do. It’s a great day out and a great networking potential.

Guy: [00:42:37] Often there’s lots of samples to try as well, so if you’re feeling hungry and want to go networking, it’s a great way to strike up a conversation and go and see what’s happening in the UK food scene. They’ve also got suppliers from all over the world there as well. They’re very diverse, very exciting and a great day out or three days out if you fancy it.

Guy: [00:42:54] If you’re a food start up, the place that I would really recommend going to check out is the Discovery Zone because that’s where all, I personally find them the most exciting and interesting people, they’re all the new and innovative producers. Last year it was tucked away in a corner upstairs but it was definitely the highlight of the show for me last year.

Kylie: [00:43:14] So, if you want to get involved with that, it’s the Speciality and Fine Food Fair at Olympia London between the 2nd and the 4th of September.

Kylie: [00:43:21] We’ll put some details in the show notes so that you can go and have a look.

Guy: [00:43:25] Yeah, absolutely, links and details and dates and all that in the show notes at Right. I think that wraps us up for yet another episode. Thank you so much for joining us today it’s always a pleasure to have you hanging out with us. We will see you next time. Thanks very much. Cheers!

Kylie: [00:43:41] See you later!