Confectioner’s Comment: sowing the seeds of ethical sourcing
Setting itself high ethical standards of chocolate production has served UK confectionery business Seed and Bean well. Neill Barston quizzes the company’s chief chocolatier Oli Shorts on the company’s ambitions for 2019.
Q: What’s the inspiration behind the focus on organic, ethical sourcing for Seed and Bean?
Every bar of chocolate we produce is Fairtrade, Soil Association Organic and wrapped in fully recyclable and compostable packaging. We’re proud to have be at the forefront of the green movement. Ethically conscious living is built into the brand’s DNA and something we know is important to our customer base. Cocoa has always been an area of confectionery production that has required a considered and ethically minded eye and as such is something we’ve been keen to review properly to ensure we’re meeting flawless standards. We were the first chocolate brand in the UK to move to fully compostable foil six years ago now. Since then – and with sustainability, ethics and transparency becoming ever more important to consumers – we’ve seen other brands start to sit up and pay more attention.
Q: The company has recently gained backing from the UK’s Department for International Trade for launching in France – how has that gone?
Export is an extremely exciting part of the business at Seed and Bean and the DIT has been really supportive of the brand’s expansion into the Europe. They’ve assisted us by funding various trade shows which in turn has put us in front of key buyers from across the continent and helped open doors for us. Our relationship with La Vie Claire, an organic chain of stores in France, was established at one of these shows and resulted in a listing across their outlets which launched a few months back.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your role and how do you balance it with life outside work?
Who doesn’t love chocolate? I certainly do! So to be working in the industry is a real dream job. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see listings for our product range grow globe, from Australia to the USA, in recent years. One of the challenges of running a business is inevitably trying to switch off at the end of the day but I do my best to leave my work at the door so I can relax at home and on weekends
Q: With competition within the confectionery sector being fierce – what are the company’s key challenges?
Ensuring we remain true to our organic and ethical ethos is key. While various competitors may have started with strict ethical standards, there are brand’s where this has started to be compromised in order to allow for NPD. We know we have a strong brand and our ethical credentials are a big part of the reason consumers buy into Seed and Bean. As such, we are very careful to ensure we stay true to these standards with every single product in the range, not just when it suits us! We put a lot of resources into new product development to ensure we can find adventurous new flavours and combinations that also deliver on ethical sourcing and production.
Q: What is the company’s outlook for the remainder of 2019?
2019 is set to be an exciting year for us. We’re keen to continue the growth we’ve seen in our current markets as well as continuing exploring new opportunities for export. We’re also working towards a range of new gifting options and some exciting seasonal lines, so watch this space.