Will China take to Lancashire biscuits with their tea?
PUBLISHED: 08:40 09 February 2015 | UPDATED: 23:29 21 October 2015
Shoppers in China will enjoy a ray of Lancashire sun this month when biscuits made in Blackburn go on sale there
When three business advisers who had mentored food companies across Lancashire were made redundant they felt they had the right ingredients to make a successful business themselves.
Chris Rose, Debbie Chinn and John Gardner worked together at Business Link North West where they spent years advising others on how to launch and run a business before taking the plunge themselves.
Shortly after they had been made redundant towards the end of 2010, Chris approached John with the idea of launching a food hamper business but as they looked for products they noticed a gap in the market.
‘We realised there were big established companies making biscuits but we were looking for something a bit different,’ said John. ‘We looked into buying a small company but that didn’t work out so we thought the only other way to do it was to do it ourselves.’
Using the advice they had previously given others, they set about researching the market and creating a niche brand under the name the Lancashire Biscuit Company. ‘We put our skills as business advisers into practice but it is a totally different kettle of fish when you’re doing it yourself,’ John added. ‘When we started the business we thought we would have a headstart on other people because we had been into a lot of businesses and had seen what worked and why some businesses failed.
‘We are all from a food background and we knew we had the makings of a good business but we are happy to admit we’ve been on a steep learning curve these past few years.’
They company moved in to a unit in Blackburn in July 2012 and the first test batch of biscuits came out of the oven a couple of months later. They now produce a range of flavours including oat and coconut, ginger parkin and fruit crumble and they supply biscuits to farm shops, delicatessens and hotels around Lancashire.
And this month they will begin exporting their products to China where they will be sold under the name Ray of Sun. ‘It sounds very grand when you say you’re exporting to China but there was a lot of luck along the way,’ John said. ‘There is a large and growing demand for traditional English foods in China and although the branding has been changed for the Chinese market, it does still say Lancashire Biscuit Company on there.’
The Scandinavians already enjoy Lancashire biscuits but the products they know are being given a more up-market re-brand this month.
So does this international approach suggest the company wants to take on the massive names in biscuit making? ‘We have no desire to conquer the world but we would quite like to conquer the North West of England,’ John added.
‘When you do something like we have done you realise how difficult it is to get a new brand out there, especially in a market dominated by big established names but we believe we have a good product which can be successful.’
The biscuits are made at a small factory on Dimmock Street in Blackburn using traditional machinery, not the brand new equipment they were offered. ‘It was a fully integrated new machine made in China, but we are making traditional products in a traditional way and it seemed right that we should use tried and trusted English machines.’