OUR RETAiL JOURNEY SO FAR…
Since the day I started SpiceBox, the plan has always been to have a retail range to sit along-side our curry houses. Our mission with SpiceBox is to help people eat more vegetables and, for me, having a retail range that is available nation-wide helps us achieve maximum impact with our mission.
I also love the idea of all you guys being able to cook SpiceBox meals at home that taste just as great as the dishes we serve in our curry house.
DEVELOPING THE PRODUCTS
So, retail was always the plan, but how do you go about creating the products? The first step was for Alpesh and I to sit down and discuss which items we’d like to launch with. The sauces and chutneys were an obvious starting point for two reasons – 1) guests are always asking about taking our addictive chutneys home with them from the curry house 2) they are a relatively easy product to get manufactured and have a long shelf life, meaning the risk to us was a lot lower than a fresher product with a short shelf life.
This didn’t mean that developing the sauces and chutneys was a walk in the park. Finding a manufacturer who would make small batches was tricky. We found one, but the quality of the end product wasn’t good enough. After a lot of looking and speaking to people, Alpesh found Hawkshead Relish, a family-run business based in the Lake District. They were really incredible to work with and we landed on the final recipes pretty quickly.
The second range was a bit trickier to land on. We started off by testing spice blends. I was adamant that these would be ethically sourced and organic (the quality is just so much better!) but, to be honest, we just couldn’t get the right price point without having to sell them to guys for an extortionate amount!
Back to the drawing board…
The idea for freshly made dhals had been swimming around my mind for a while – I cook and eat dhal weekly but know that lots of you simply don’t have the time to make fresh dhal each week. I thought it would be awesome to take the dhal we serve at our curry house (along with some other recipes I regularly cook) and package them so you could eat them at home, at your convenience. I was adamant that I wanted these dhals to be as fresh as possible, hand-made and to the exact recipes that I used at home/in the curry house.
We managed to find a producer next door to our head office who could make the dhals and, after a few tests, landed on a recipe that worked at scale.
CHOOSING THE PACKAGING
We didn’t have much choice with our sauce packaging – our manufacturers only worked with glass bottles. These are good because they are easy to recycle but glass is also heavy, meaning that it takes a fair amount of carbon to transport them. I wanted to make sure that it was super easy to recycle our bottles after use, so I sought out a label that could be easily removed from the bottles during the recycling process. Hawkshead helped us find a label company that could provide this. They were based close to Hawkshead which was also a win in terms of transport emissions.
For the dhal, we didn’t have many packaging options either. Our manufacturers are small-scale and do everything by hand. Plastic pouches were the obvious option as they could be vacuum-sealed on-site which would help ensure maximum freshness and shelf life. The main issue with the pouches is that they can’t be recycled at home. BUT they are made from a light-weight material which helps keep transport emissions down. For the cardboard toppers on the pouches, I found a local printing company who could print on recycled card with water-based inks.
GETTING THE PRODUCT ON SHELVES
So the products and packaging are sorted, now we just need to get them on shelves! Our strategy for this is to get listed in a few select wholesalers, who sell into retailers on our target list.
These wholesalers are very busy at the moment (what with Covid and Brexit) and so getting ‘in front’ of them is a challenge – they get bombarded with emails from brands daily. Our first tactic was to send sample boxes of our products – these went down a treat:
But for some busy wholesalers, they were enough. After sending my 5th chaser email to certain buyers, I decided to try a different route – write a good old fashioned letter, with some pretty images of the products:
It worked! One of the buyers I had been trying to contact for months responded immediately, saying how much he enjoyed receiving the letter. We are now in late-stage conversations with him and hope to get stocked within the next few weeks. Securing this wholesaler will mean that you will see our products on more shelves around the country, so fingers crossed it all works out!
We are also talking to some other wholesalers – our target is to have 3 on-board with us by the end of March.
Now seems like a good time to give a shout out to Eat 17 who went ahead and stocked us before we got a wholesaler on board. The response so far has been amazing – we are struggling to keep up with demand! Thank you so much to everyone who has bought our products. Please do send in any photos of you with your SpiceBox products at home – I’d love to see them in action!