It’s my favourite time of the week. I always look forward to sharing my Behind the Biz interviews with you and hope they inspire you to support indie brands and to even set up your own business one day. For today’s interview we’re diving back into the food industry with British made biscotti.
Today I’m chatting with Paul Rostand, the founder of the Great British Biscotti Co.
Please tell us about your business.
The Great British Biscotti Company was born at the beginning of 2015 soon after I got involved with a small biscotti business based in the deepest reaches of the New Forest. From the very first moment I strolled through the front door I was hooked by the notion of top notch biscotti with a distinct British twist.
After all, who says that the very best biscotti must come from Tuscany? Or that when it comes to memorable flavour profiles almonds are always the answer? Most importantly I was adamant that the UK marketplace was ripe for an eclectic-flavoured biscotti range with the ambition to be so much more than a frothy coffee accompaniment.
My career up until this point had focused on sourcing ahead-of-their-time food concepts for a number of the major food retailers and yet looking back I suspect I’ve always hankered for a brand of my own. The existing business had so much wrong with it and yet at the heart of the brand was a kernel of a fantastical brand. I decided to buy the business which is where the adventure really began.
Where did the inspiration for The Great British Biscotti Co come from?
My vision was always to be so much more than the next in a long line of quaint, regional food propositions. I wanted a brand with the capacity to look beyond its coffee shop and hotel heartland (humble coffee accompaniment) and explore avenues as deeply diverse as the on-trade, gifting, foodservice, hospitality & airlines to delis and restaurants.
What soon became very apparent that this wasn’t a vision shared simply by me and a small huddle of British based ‘biscottieers.’ Enquiries were arriving from China, Hong Kong, Scandinavia and even Italy, which is about the exact same moment it dawned on me that I needed a brand name with a little more ambition because we were clearly onto something.
I would however like to stress that although I harboured significant brand ambitions from the outset, this was never an excuse to tinker with product quality. I believe passionately in best-in-class ingredients, minimal mechanisation and only products of a craggy and uneven disposition – deploring old school offerings: bland, perfectly symmetrical, conveyor belt bikkies that still continue to dominate too many of the nation’s biscuit barrels.
Did you always plan to set up your own business?
Only subliminally but when the opportunity arose I knew I had to grab it with both hands.
What has been the biggest challenge in running your business so far?
The rising ingredient prices of key ingredients caused by the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit plus having to change factories 3 times in two years as we quickly outgrew our premises. We’re now happily bedded down in Dorset which is without question our long-term spiritual home.
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
There have been 3 highlights to date which I can’t decide between.
Winning a smattering of awards is always a good feeling when you know that the panels are riddled with wise foodie sages. We’ve already won 3 Great Taste awards, The Dragon’s Pantry prize for Innovation and a Foodtalk Gold and the year’s not over yet!
The creation of the world’s 1st tea dunking biscotti has probably more media attention than anything else we’ve done to date. There’s a long-standing fallacy that suggests biscotti are made specifically with coffee in mind. The creation of a tea-centric dunker was a step change moment.
The single biggest success for our brand has been our savoury portfolio which is already so much more than an on-the-go nibble. Many foodie establishments utilise our biscotti croutons as the perfect addition to soups, charcuterie trays and cheeseboards.
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
Slow to date as we’ve had to spend a majority of our tight budgets on a website, new packaging and regular innovation. Now this has all been bedded down social media will come more to the fore.
Twitter – always been a big believer in the power of words.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Trust your gut, stay true to 1st principles and never compromise your vision when things get tough. Conversely always remain open to new ideas. Gifting was not something I originally envisaged for my brand and yet now it’s a very credible standalone income stream for us.
Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?
We will have a standalone snack pack portfolio, an enviable high street presence and a blossoming export arm because ‘British made’ produce is still held in high regard the world over.
Thank you so much to Paul for taking the time to be involved with Behind the Biz. I’m delighted to have the Great British Biscotti Co as part of this series and I really enjoyed learning about Paul’s business journey. I love the branding and I don’t know about you, but I’m craving biscotti now! I think Paul shares very wise words for aspiring entrepreneurs in that it’s important not to compromise your vision, even when things get tough. This can also be applied to the world of blogging. I look forward to seeing the biz continue to grow and I’m excited to be able to buy their snack packs on the high street.
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