The second in our season of Toast Food interviews with food & drink producers, where we invite a variety of producers to share their story, knowledge and insights with us.
This time we meet our friends and clients, Ross and Ross Foods, a multi award-winning fine food company based in the Cotswolds who love big, bold British flavours and fresh local produce and we love working with them.
We’ve been lucky enough to work with Ross & Ross since they started, from their brand creation and packaging of their first product line, see our case study on Ross and Ross here. We’ve seen how well they’ve grown and how hard these guys work, they’re incredibly passionate about what they do and the food industry overall, we felt it would be great for people to find out more about what makes them tick.
Ice-breaker – allow us to get know you a little better: how do you take your coffee/tea?
Coffee and Tea both black and no sugar
Tell us about your business, what do you produce?
We produce award-winning Handmade British Food Gifts. We have a range that includes the Homemade Curing Kits, Man Box Collection, British BBQ, British Roast and Food Hampers. Using the best ingredients from in and around the Cotswolds with an emphasis on quality.
When did you start-up?
If you had to describe your company in one line, what would it be?
Handmade British Food Gifts.
What is your role there?
Co-Founder. I look after developing, selling and marketing our products both new and existing.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to get over to establish your business?
What do you look for in a design partner?
We look for a personal experience. Someone on our wavelength and easy to share ideas with.
What’s been the most enjoyable surprise in business?
Still being alive and kicking after six years.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Keeping the business afloat. The economy and retail has been pretty volatile so keeping going through innovation has been the biggest challenge.
Did you have a detailed marketing plan in place when you started up?
Yes. It was fairly detailed and structured and mapped out where we thought we would be going.
Did you follow it? Do you follow one now?
No really. I think your business and marketing plan kind of goes out of the window when you first start. There are a million twists and turns that you could never plan for. We do use one now. Based over 12 months but constantly changes as new ideas and opportunities arise.
How do you measure your success beyond the bottom line?
Still being in business. Brand recognition through awards. Being stocked by some of the biggest and most prestigious retailers in the country. Means we must be doing something right!
What value do you place on your current ‘Brand’?
We get well noticed from people we speak to at shows both retail and trade. The brand is what people recognise and identify us with so it’s value is very high. Without it we don’t really have anything.
If you could pass on one piece of advice to fellow aspiring foodies looking to do something like you, what would it be?
Don’t listen to anyone. Well maybe listen but make your own calls. Everyone will give you all the advice in the world (usually when they have never done it themselves). Stick to your gut instinct. Best advice from a product point of view is to first find a market and then make a product. Just because your friends and family say you make nice jam doesn’t mean you should start a jam business.
If you had to describe Toast in one line, what would it be?
Toast are right at the forefront of design through their understanding of the importance of packaging and how it will help grow your brand.
Last one – how important is design and branding to your company’s success?
Massively important. You won’t be in the shop selling your product so the design and branding must lead the sale on the shop shelf.
We would like to thank Ross & Ross for taking the time to answer our questions and share their insights and experiences with us, not just about starting a business but growing it and the problem that they faced along the way. We wish them all the best for the future. Find out more about Ross and Ross Food and their great products at www.rossandrossfood.co.uk – if you haven’t tried curing your own bacon at home yet, you need to get one of their Homemade Bacon Curing Kits!
Keep an eye out for other interviews with food and drink producers and other ‘Friends of Toast’.