On the up · 18 January 2016

The Snaffling Pig Co: A food business giving pork crackling a makeover

The products have provided a fresh take on a traditional product
The products have provided a fresh take on a traditional product

After placing a bet with each other to see if it was possible to set up a business with only £500, Nick Coleman and Udhi Silva’s pork crackling business has gone from strength to strength.

After only a year, the duo have managed to convince the likes of Selfridges and Ocado to stock their goods and are on track to bring in a turnover of £800,000 this year.

Always keen to hear from young and enterprising entrepreneurs, Business Advice cornered fellow business partner Andrew Allen and got him to lift the lid on his food business.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Andrew Allen, and together with my two business partners Nick Coleman and Udhi Silva, I own the The Snaffling Pig Co. We’re makers of big, bold flavoured pork crackling and general lovers of all things pork snacks.

(2) How long has The Snaffling Pig Co been around for?

We started trading in November 2014. It’s a food business borne out of a genuine love for the product and initially it was a passion project more than anything. That passion for the product is vital in any market, but especially so when it comes to food.

(3) How do you make money?

We set out with a mission to take crackling to places it’s never been before – and following the “traditional recipe” for this type of product (in every sense of the phrase) was never going to allow us to do that. As a result we’ve concentrated on using flavours and formats to create products that suit the customers’ needs. We’ve got a range of gift products packaged in branded glass jars for example. It allows us to position crackling in ways it never has been before, and operate in multiple markets.

We’re also very passionate about our customer relationships – whether it’s an individual buying a single jar or a large chain looking for pallet loads, making sure we understand what we can do to support their needs and going that extra “piggin’ mile” has helped build our repeat business, which is so important to growing the food business.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

The flavours and formats I mentioned above are very different to anything else out there, but we’re not so different that the product needs a lot of explaining. It might not have really existed before, but flavoured pork crackling is an easy enough concept to understand – which is a big benefit.

When you couple that with the fact we sell something lots of people see as a favourite treat it means that getting attention is often as simple as getting the product in front of them.

Beyond the product side of things, pubs like crackling that extra bit more as it’s VAT free.

The Snaffling Pig team (L_R): Nick Coleman, Andy Allen and Udhi Silva.
The Snaffling Pig Co team (L_R): Nick Coleman, Andrew Allen and Udhi Silva.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

Three factors really helped:

Firstly, we built the business on our own strengths. Nick and Udhi also have a logistics business and a distribution centre so we made sure we made full use of that experience when it came to our processes and delivery options. I come from a marketing and advertising background so we’ve applied big brand thinking to the product from day one. I’ve also written a lot of pig based puns.

Secondly, we worked hard on our supplier relationships; it sounds obvious, but they’re so critical to the product’s success. Nick did a lot of research to find people we could put total trust into and it’s paid dividends since.

Finally, when it was time to launch, we started up by going pub to pub with our early products. There’s no better way to test your idea than seeing real world reactions. We owe a huge amount to those first customers, many of whom we’re proud to say are still with us.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Getting to market entirely self-funded was very satisfying, and landing our first export customer, (a large supermarket in Dubai, surprisingly) was fantastic, but I think the biggest achievement is probably our Christmas period just gone. We sold thousands of jars a week, many them dispatched directly from our warehouse to the individual customer. It was a steep learning curve, and we had some very late nights but the thought of people all over the country unwrapping jars of our product on Christmas Day still makes me smile now. The only down side was I spent most of Christmas on Twitter looking at pictures people tweeted!

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

We had a trademark issue that meant we had to change the brand’s name just as we were gearing up. We hoped we’d be able to straighten things out informally, but sometimes you need to realise that’s just not going to be the case, so as painful as it was given the amount of packaging and collateral we had made up, we decided to rename. There were some positives that came out of it though, like how the reaction to our announcement helped us realise how supportive our customer base had become. Ultimately, we learnt the lesson and trotted on.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

Still a crackling fan.

Proud of what we achieved (no matter what the future brings).

Hopefully mentoring and investing in the next wave of startups.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Do something you piggin’ love. Its sounds cheesy, but that passion will pull you through the darker days and make the good ones that much sweeter.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

The three of us have lots of people who we admire and we tend to meet more everyday, but when we started out the food business our heroes were James Watt and Martin Dicki at Brewdog, for their attitude and reluctance to follow the norm, and Joe Sopher at Joe & Seph’s Popcorn for taking an established product into new markets. We ended up with a stand next to Joe at an event in the summer, which was great – he’s a nice guy.

More recently we also really admire what the guys at Pipers Crisps have done. Their distribution is fantastic without being in any supermarkets and they make one tasty snack, which is always ok with us.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Gordon Merrylees is head of entrepreneurship for NatWest, dedicated to supporting, nurturing and growing entrepreneurial talent with a grass route approach, by sharing NatWest’s regional ecosystems of key stakeholder relationships and partnerships. He acts as counsel and advisor to NatWest’s future Strategic SME initiatives to support UK entrepreneurs as well as personally mentoring many SME customers and entrepreneurs.

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