Cornish cookie firm sees bright export future

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cornwall

Cornish biscuit maker Furniss is aiming to boost turnover by 50% this year as it embarks on an ambitious programme of new product development and...

Cornish biscuit maker Furniss is aiming to boost turnover by 50% this year as it embarks on an ambitious programme of new product development and steps up export activities.

The Redruth-based firm, which was bought out of administration by Cornish pasty specialist Proper Cornish in 2006, turned over £2M in 2009 and is aiming to top £3M this year.
Best known for its Cornish Fairings, a lightly spiced biscuit, Furniss has increased its staff count from 20 to 30 over the last three years and developed 20 new products including a West Country biscuit collection and a range of fudges and seasonal products such as Christmas biscuits.
It has also developed its first oat-based savoury biscuit line (Cornish Sea Salt, Davidstow Cheddar and Thyme) via a collaboration with celebrity chef Rick Stein. The biscuits, which were launched in May 2009, have since secured listings in Waitrose and Tesco and are also in selected stores in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Md Chris Pauling said exports were a key growth opportunity: “We have stuck to our simple strategy of expanding the Furniss brand and concentrating on the export market at a time when the pound is weak. This has proved successful and we are now exporting biscuits to Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.”
However, the firm had also benefited from increased tourism in Cornwall as larger numbers of holidaymakers chose to take holidays in the UK instead of heading abroad, said Pauling: “Success has come via introducing new products to easily accessible markets, such as targeting the more generic ‘West Country’ collection at retailers throughout the South West region.”
Sales director Matthew Bowern added: “We feel that there is a wealth of opportunity within the smaller retailers for the likes of our Rick Stein biscuit range. We will also be attending a number of consumer exhibitions and events in order to get the public tasting our biscuits.”

New products due to be launched this year include a range of giant cookies, snack packs and ‘Grab and Go’ lines targeted at the foodservice sector. Furniss was also planning to strengthen own-label activities, which account for 60% of its business, said marketing manager Mark Muncey. “I think the retailers are really starting to look again at their premium ranges as the economy recovers.”
The business was also geared up for growth on an operational front, said Muncey. “We actually took some capacity out of the business when we bought it, taking out slow and unprofitable lines or those that were not central to our strategy, so we have plenty of capacity to support our growth.”