Cryms is a micro business based on the Lleyn Peninsula, Gwynedd and owned by Kit Ellis and Sioned Williams. Their produce includes a range of shortbread biscuits, fudge and a traditional treacle toffee (Sioned's mother's recipe). They use a "unique blend" of flavours and spices, including lemon meringue, cinnamon and pecan and savoury cheese to ensure the taste of the biscuits "stand out," and they also prepare delicacies which cater for customers who have certain dietary requirements such as diabetes, in addition to a gluten free option.
Cryms was established in November 2013 as a partnership between "two close friends" and the business has been growing steadily ever since. Sioned, who prepares and cooks each recipe, was once Kit's student in college, and they have known each other for 25 years:
You could say that it [Cryms] started off as an accident. Sioned used to make homemade biscuits for her holiday cottage guests and I happened to be there at the house one day when she was baking. I told her straight as I bit into one that she had to sell them, and that she could make a fortune. We might not have made that fortune yet, but it's going well.
Kit explained that Sioned reacted to her comment by replying that she'd once been told by a fortune teller that she would one day excel in her baking skills, feeding their idea and increasing their determination to make the business a success:
Both of us love working within the agricultural community, and our business idea was a part of being able to continue working locally at Sioned's farm. I think it must be because we both love working with men and come from an agricultural background!
Both work in the business on a full time basis and employ three members of seasonal staff during their busiest periods, including the summer months and depending on demand in the run up to Christmas. Over the last year and due to an increase in demand, the number of seasonal staff they employ to help sell the product at food festivals across Wales has increased by two. Being able to employ themselves as well as additional members of staff when needed has been a "bonus," for the business.
Sioned worked from her own kitchen at home before having her own unit built at her farm in 2012. With this unit, Sioned can cook approximately 2,000 biscuits per day according to Kit:
It's important to us that everything we create has that homemade feel and taste about them so Sioned makes everything herself.
They currently sell their produce at a variety of local delicatessens across Wales and in larger retailers such as Spar and Londis.
In regards to Cryms link to the local economy, all members of staff, including seasonal employees live on the Lleyn Peninsula. In terms of suppliers, 100% of suppliers are based in the British Isles with 10% coming from the local economy in Gwynedd and Anglesey.
Support provided by the FTC
Cryms first received support from FTC in 2013/14 and the contact between Kit and the centre has been regular on a monthly basis, by telephone or email. Both Kit and Sioned heard about the support available through word of mouth and proceeded to attend a CIEH Level 2 Award in Food Safety at the centre as part of their business development. The training was beneficial in that it improved their understanding of food preparation and storing and also increased their awareness of legislation and applying and monitoring good hygiene practices.
They were motivated to access further support through the Centre as a result of the training, with Kit expressing that the staff at the Centre had been "very supportive," and:
...had a real understanding of what we are trying to achieve with our product with that homemade feel.
The FTC facilities allowed Cryms to manufacture their product on a small industrial scale and to test a variety of different tastes and flavour combinations, giving them the opportunity to trial a certain type of shortbread before releasing it on to the open market. Hiring the facilities meant that they were able to decide if there was a demand for their product before they invested in any specialised kitchen equipment for their own personal unit.
It is an "important part of every food business, to see if there is a point to go any further" and the quality of the service provided by the FTC as well as an evident demand for their product, inspired them to continue to develop Cryms. They were also given advice on the legal compliance of food labelling, including water activity (part of labelling requirements) and were given feedback on the breakdown of their ingredients. This advice ensured that they were fulfilling all the legal requirements essential for their business.
No similar support services have been identified locally by Cryms and Kit believes that the Centres proximity to their home on the Lleyn Peninsula is also an important part of the support. Kit explained that this type of support was an invaluable part of their business development; being able to access localised expertise and knowledge as well as being given advice on how to proceed with different ideas and products.
In terms of potential improvements to the FTC support, Kit believes that the FTC could promote what they offer and what is being done in the facilities better, explaining that she doesn not think that "enough is being done to let other businesses know how much they [FTC] can help."
Benefit of the Support
The support provided through the FTC has enabled Cryms to further develop their business or as described by Kit, "help us to know what works and what doesn't and to make sure that we're doing everything properly," through testing and identifying a market for a new product.
One of the challenges of establishing a food based business, according to Kit, is being able to understand and follow all the essential legislation requirements involved when selling the product to the wider public, and without the support provided by the FTC, the business would have found it difficult to continue developing as they have:
I'm not saying that we wouldn't have carried on, it's just that it would have taken much longer for us to understand what was expected of us and what exactly we'd need to do to make sure that all our labels were correct. We wouldn't be able to sell our produce if it wasn't for them.
As a result, Kit believes that Cryms would not have established itself as well as it has over the last year and that they would be 12 months behind where they are now without the support. Specifically, she expressed that an increase in turnover of about 30% over the last year is partly the result of the support provided by the FTC, which has also resulted in them being able to employ additional staff.
She also praised the passion that the Centre staff have towards their clients and towards the produce that they work with:
Their attitude is inspiring, they obviously have a passion for what they do and this really shows through when you're working with them. It makes the process what it's meant to be, fun and satisfying but also passionate.
This passion was even more evident when the business received an email from the Centre on the same day they won a 2015 Great Taste Award for their treacle toffee, with Kit claiming that it is those "small touches that make you want to work with them again.
Local knowledge as well as having a FTC local to them has also been important to the business, specifically Cryms are now looking at expanding their kitchens to a local bakery whom they met as part of their work with the FTC. This will mean an increase in productivity contributing towards future expansion plans.
Having a good relationship with the FTC has encouraged Cryms to consider how to best capitalise on selling new products and the equipment available at the FTC was a great benefit; "they let us borrow a certain cheese cutter so we could make a cast out of it for our own biscuits, I'm not sure that there's many centres who would help you with the little things like that."
Cryms is looking at working from an additional premises at a local bakery (a contact made through the FTC) once or twice a week in order to expand and to increase productivity. Six weeks ago they received a biscuit order from Europe for 44,000 packets, a quantity they would not be able to produce without increasing their capacity. Maintaining the quality and integrity of the produce is very important to them both, and allowing Sioned to continue baking her own delicacies is an important part of this.
In addition, they are looking to sell their products to larger supermarkets and will be attending and showcasing their products at events such as the Speciality and Fine Food Fair in London in September 2015.
Feedback from FTC
We are delighted that Cryms is experiencing considerable growth both in the UK and overseas and it is an exciting time for Sioned and Kit, who have worked closely with the Centre. Going forward we aim to provide support to further develop new lines and additional products to push further growth. Paul Roberts, Business Developer