I hope you’re all having a productive start to the week. I’m here with a new and exciting Behind the Biz interview. If you’re keen to discover the story of a passionate family biz from who make the finest ice cream then read on.
I chat to Peter the co-founder of Beckleberry’s – An award-winning family business with a passion for creating incredible ice cream.
Where did the inspiration for Beckleberry’s come form?
Beckleberry’s is a father & son business that began life in 1996 when Peter (son) decided that the traditional university pathway wasn’t right for him, about the same time Ian (father) an ex-colliery engineer was wondering how best to spend his redundancy money.
Both shared a deep-rooted appreciation of ice cream and their Northern roots and both were keen to tap into the North East’s proud manufacturing traditions to create something real and tangible. The short –term answer was for them both to enrol on an ice cream making course at Reading University.
From the outset their vision was clear cut & unshakeable: source locally wherever feasible (local dairy), no limp, half-hearted flavours, small batch production, products with an adult-leaning palate (Amaretto & Sour Cherry, Blackcurrant & Kirsch, Passion Fruit & Tarragon…..)
How did you decide upon your name?
When my dad and I were thinking of a name I read two lines in the index of a book on country houses (bad eyes!) and it came out as beckle-berrys. We liked it!
What did you do before starting Beckleberry’s?
I was an A-level student tiring of academia, whilst my grades were good I feared another 3 years at university might stifle my entrepreneurial ambitions. My father as mentioned earlier was an ex-colliery engineer, which is why our revamped identity includes an honoury colliery wheel.
As proud Northerners it’s always frustrated us that the North East is often overlooked as a culinary hotspot which is why our strapline is ‘Gourmet with a Northern Soul.’
Did you always plan to set up your own business?
Absolutely! Both of us are inquisitive souls and the opportunity to work together (recently joined by my younger brother David) was too good to pass up. In the early days our roles were clearly defined, Ian would bring back to life the metallic tangle of redundant ice cream machinery we’d purchased, whilst I’d paint anything mechanical a glorious shade of Hammerite white.
Today with the likes of BA, American Airlines, Virgin, Costco, Booths as clients our roles have had to become more clearly defined. I am sales, my Brother David (Marketing & our Flagship store Gateshead) whilst my Ian (father) runs our production site. We also have a revered pastry chef, Ian Winton, who looks after our growing pud and patisserie offer.
New flavours are a ‘shared joy.’ We have certainly made a few wrong turns along the way which is why thankfully Parsnip & Balsamic Vinegar and Curried Pineapple never saw the light of day – but by and large we know our stuff, which is why we’ve now won over 100 Great Taste Awards.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Our 10,000sq foot factory that we moved into had begun life as an ambulance station, which seemed strangely apt since we felt our mission was to resuscitate neglected taste buds. I would say that 2014 was a pivotal year when our volumes for the world’s favourite airline went stellar and we had to invest significantly to expand the size, capacity and productivity of our rapidly evolving facility. In 2016 we took the next step & created a state-of-the-art innovation centre to back the fact that ‘fantastical flavours’ is our calling card.
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
There have been many. Last year we launched our new ‘Northern centric’ identity which makes us both feel so proud. Forging long-lasting relationships with the likes of Virgin & American Airlines remains a genuine badge of honour, as is exporting to Spain and North America, which began at the end of last year. That said, winning the supreme Great Taste award (The Fortnum & Mason Supreme Champion Trophy) for our Blackcurrant & Kirsch sorbet remains hard to beat.
What role does social media play for your business?
To date very little! We didn’t want to focus on the social media platforms until we had a proper website that we were truly proud of. Finally that dream is a reality so please watch this space.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
Dream big! There should be no limitations to one’s imagination because that is the key advantage smaller businesses have over timid, ‘play safe’ corporates. That said, learn to jog before you run because too much too soon can be an uncomfortable burden.
I want to say a big thank you to Peter for getting involved with Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed discovering the story behind Beckleberry’s. They’ve created an extremely popular product with excellent branding and very impressive client base. I’m keen to try their Sour Cherry & Amaretto sorbet, it sounds delicious.
I love the passion and dedication Peter and his family have for their business and wish them the best of luck for the future.
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