Tell us a little bit about yourself – have you always been a foodie?
Yes. My mother was into catering and making preserves when I was growing up, so I always had it around me. As a child, I was interested in food and eating well. I started decorating cakes as a teen and decided quite early on that I was interested in food and making dishes. I thought I wanted to have a restaurant, so I went to college and learnt to cook properly. I was then sent to France to work in Michelin-star restaurants. I had a plan to start a restaurant, but I decided to travel to Hong Kong for a year, where I worked in various restaurants learning about more Asian styles. I returned to the UK and continued my studies in management.
When and why did you set up The Bay Tree?
I was introduced to a friend of a friend for lunch who was also interested in food and was working for a hotel in marketing. We had some cucumber relish for lunch and her words were: “I could sell this.” I then started making some sample chutneys and Lucy sold them. The next thing we knew we had orders coming in the door!
How has it developed?
We have developed our range into cooking sauces, dressings, sweet and savoury preserves, and table sauces – we now make over 150 lines. Plus, we have a distribution side that supplies independent retailers with other quality products that complement what we do, such as cheese biscuits.
How do you grow your business?
By looking for new markets and producing innovative products that people want. We branched out into catering buckets over the years, which has seen good growth due to more gastro pubs and people wanting more interesting sandwiches. We will continue to develop this sector.
You have a great product range – how do you decide what to include?
This is hard but we review the range every year. We try to add in a few new ideas and delist lines that do not seem to have captured interest on the shelf. We are creatures of habit so we tend to buy the same products that we like, so adding in new lines can be a challenge to market when there is so much out there.
What are your favourite Bay Tree products?
Our Piccalilli, Marinated Mini Figs, Spicy Tomato Chutney, Pomegranate Dressing, Garlic and Fennel Mustard, and Passionfruit Curd.
Are there any products you’d like to have that you don’t yet?
Yes, there are always lines that we would like to make but many we cannot due to our process. The key ones are a white sauce – everyone wants a good white sauce but it’s hard to make this well in an ambient setting.
Do you have any new products coming up?
A new range of salsas is coming out early next year for snacking.
What makes a successful business?
That does depend on the reason for setting up a business. In our case, it is about making a product that consumers really want, at a fair price, and working with retailers and consumers to offer that bit extra in service and innovation to make every meal special.