Pecan Deluxe Candy specialises in making toppings and inclusions for food and drink manufacturers and quick-service restaurants. Our success as a business, in a very competitive marketplace, is the ability to offer a bespoke service in a focused way.
Our parent US company is owned by the Brigham family, and a family ethic runs right through everything we do. My boss, Jay Brigham, is very supportive, but at the same time allows me to run things the way I feel best serves the UK market. In areas such as consumer trends and food safety, Jay recognises that Europe is very different to the US. Flavour and textural requirements vary greatly, too.
Innovation and investment in the right technologies have allowed us to service growth markets very effectively. In 2018, we embarked on a series of operational improvements as part of a £3m investment, effectively joining up individual manufacturing units to create a secure site under one roof.
Food safety and traceability benefits
Central to this was expanding our warehousing and moving our cold store capabilities in-house. Having the cold store facility gives us greater flexibility and speeds up our turnaround times. Crucially, it also affords us complete control over our own stocks. From a food safety and traceability perspective, this really benefits customers.
As part of the investment, we installed a cold extrusion line to meet increasing demand for cookie dough, particularly in the ice cream sector. We also added a second one-shot chocolate line, allowing us to produce a greater variety of different-coloured chocolates and filled cups. Again, both real chocolate and low-melt chocolate for ice cream are growing markets.
In all, we have 11 different processing technologies, but the core areas are baking, panning, cold extrusion, praline and confectionery. Many of our top-selling products in baking and cold extrusion are now low-sugar and allergen-free varieties. That said, traditional high-sugar confectionery – fudge and toffee pieces in particular – continue to defy logic and sell really well.
Along with the scope of our offer, we pride ourselves on our flexibility. We operate off smaller runs, and on very specific briefs from our customers. That doesn’t mean to say we can’t do longer runs – it just shows that we know which way the market is heading, so we’ve geared ourselves up to cater for that.
Although we consolidated our operations, having separate manufacturing units allowed us to keep allergen-sensitive production areas sealed off. The nuts facility, for instance, is effectively a building within a building, with separate entrances, staff facilities, warehousing and storage. So, we’re in a very strong position in regards to allergen segregation.
While we’re well-placed to capitalise on the growth areas of the market, there’s no denying the challenges. The most obvious one is Brexit. Around 80% of what we produce is distributed in mainland Europe, so as a business we really took advantage of being in the EU.
There has been a downturn in business as a result of Brexit – there’s no escaping that. We had to take out some staff numbers to remain efficient, but over time we are looking to get those back. We will continue to grow across all the areas within our distribution scope, including newer markets like Russia, Turkey, the Middle East and South Africa.
We have some exciting plans for getting our products into areas we don’t currently deal in. I can’t reveal too much at this stage, but utilising e-commerce is going to be a big area for us. Consumers are more demanding than ever, and there are so many independent outlets out there that cannot really take the minimum order quantities that businesses like ours traditionally provide.
We’re going to try and cater for that category, and create some innovation and growth within the independents on the high street – whether that’s a baker, a dessert outlet, or an ice cream shop.
When it comes to further factory investment, we can only automate so far in the market we’re in. We have plans to automate some of the back-end of our production, but it’s about investing when our cash-flow allows us.
Of course, we’ll continue to look after our people as well. The most effective tactic in motivating and engaging staff is good communication – making sure they are informed of what’s going on in the business and the wider market.
It’s important our employees are not operating in silos and are able to see the fruits of their labour. Whenever we get a customer launch, we buy product in and have a celebration. Talk to anybody here, and you’ll see we’re all passionate about what we do. The losses are taken personally, but so are the wins. I’m very fortunate that, in the eight years here, I’ve had more reasons to celebrate than not.
If we are delivering on time, in full to our customers with good-quality products, then we are doing our job. But it’s also about making sure the staff are happy and healthy, as ultimately, they are the ones who make the business what it is.
Pecan Deluxe Candy
Location: Lincoln Way, Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS25 6PJ
Group turnover: £14.2m
Main products: Toppings and inclusions for bakery items, confectionery, chocolate, ice cream, yogurt and sauces.
Main customers: Food manufacturers, quick-service restaurants.
Core production areas: Confectionery, baking, cold extrusion, panning, praline.
Graham Kingston: “I have a passion for food, which helps greatly with what I do.”