My husband, Brian, and I started Flower & White from our small kitchen in Shropshire in 2009. A decade on, our Telford factory employs 40 people and uses more than 200,000 eggs, with the capacity to produce more than one million meringues each day.
However, we didn’t start with meringues. I went back to work after having children and, as a stay-at-home father, Brian started baking the most amazing cupcakes and selling them at farmers’ markets. At that time, we were frequently asked for gluten-free options, so we launched meringues.
The business now is largely unrecognisable to what it was, aside from the fact that innovation remains at the forefront – whether that’s in NPD, production, processes or people. Healthy indulgence is at the core of everything we do, and our range includes Swiss-style Meringue Giants, Meringue Drops and the latest innovation, Meringue Bars and Bites, which are wrapped in 100% plastic-free, recyclable and Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper packaging.
Best of both worlds
Confectionery and bakery collide with our Swiss meringues. Flavoured and drizzled or sprinkled, these are our hero product, and they form desserts for many customers and consumers. That said, our Bars and Bites – stocked in the likes of Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, QVC, and on-board Virgin Atlantic flights – are now really driving business growth.
Meringues are not easy to make – unless you have exactly the right conditions. Humidity is not their friend, and moving into a new factory in summer 2019 has presented solutions and challenges alike.
We grew by 30% last year, and it’s essential for our success that we embrace innovation to enable us to grow in the right way. We have recently taken advantage of funding for small and medium-sized enterprises to invest in equipment, including a new pouch packing line and additional chocolate enrobers, as well as another exciting bit of kit that will form our next round of NPD – which is top secret at the moment.
Later this month, we will be integrating our new enterprise resource planning system, which will further enhance our capability to deliver for our customers. In March, we will have a BRC audit, which gives us a platform to really service them with confidence.
Key trends for us are calorie-counting, healthier indulgence, sustainability, snacking and those who are on the lookout for something different. Last year, we won a major innovation award for our Salted Caramel Meringue Bite, and the judges said we were doing something unique with meringue by moving it into the snacking and convenience sector.
There was an element of seasonality in our business, but we have worked hard to reposition meringue as a lighter treat during the colder, stodgier winter food months. We had the best January on record in 2019 and are looking forward to beating that this month. We have moved into different channels and markets to combat seasonal fluctuation – this includes large orders going out to foodservice and also to the US this month and next.
We believe we have a duty to be mindful about the impact our business has on the environment. This, however, does not come without cost – which we are absorbing – and challenges. We have a duty to get our products to our customers safely.
Plastic is a fantastic material, but single use has to be cut down. There are some good alternatives coming through, but the performance of the product in-pack within many new materials is still evolving. We were thrilled to be the first confectionery product to launch in paper with the Bars and Bites, beating the likes of Nestlé and Cadbury.
Direct communication with staff
As a business, we are all in it together. Brian and I communicate openly to the staff about the challenges and every individual is integral to the team. We have monthly ‘town hall’ meetings where we are given various challenges. It’s great fun, but enables us to work across departments and really get to know each other. This has created huge amounts of respect for people’s strengths and, equally, where support is required within that team.
We will continue to work on our company values and beliefs, derived from many fully immersive team workshop sessions continuing throughout 2020, and we will look at ways in which we can improve our operating methods to be more sustainable. We made great leaps last year with our move towards paper packaging, the removal of plastic fillers from our deliveries, and energy efficiency, but believe we can do even more in the coming years.
In addition to launching in the US this year, Germany and the Middle East are key focus markets for us. We will also be further growing our frozen foodservice ranges and distribution potential for the catering sector, pubs, restaurants and hotels, as well as airlines and convenience.
Beyond that, we aim to create more streamlined processes through tech and kit to deliver efficient manufacture in a highly-controlled environment. We have aspirations to achieve Certified B Corporation status, and will continue to focus on export sales growth. Ultimately, though, product innovation will lead the way as we follow trends and keep pushing forwards.
Flower & White
Location: Unit D3, Tweedale Business Park, Madeley, Telford, Shropshire, TF7 4JR
Factory size: 1,200m2
Products: Meringue Giants, Drops, Bars and Bites.
Main customers: Indies, farm shops, delis, garden centres, forecourts, airlines, retailers (Harvey Nichols, Selfridges), direct-to-consumer.
Production lines: Three packaging lines.
Factory capacity: One million meringues a day.
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