Healthy eating is all the rage at the moment. Where once we would have stuffed ourselves with crisps and salty peanuts today there’s as much space on the supermarket shelves dedicated to popcorn, rice cakes, crispy seaweed and gluten-free spirulina protein bars. But the founders of the Snaffling Pig Company think there’s still room for a bit of dietary deviance.
‘People still need an indulgence - you cannot go through life without a little of what you like,’ says its co-founder and marketing director Andrew Allen. ‘But when you do that you need to make sure it's the best of what you like, rather than just a fairly middle of the road bit of pap.’
Founded in 2014, the company produces premium pork scratchings, or pork crackling to be precise – cooked twice and at a lower temperature than the traditional pub snack so it’s less likely to break your teeth. Flavours range from ‘Funkin Fennel’ to maple and sage and onion, and they even produced an advent calendar last year that was sold via the gift website Not on the High Street.
Allen met his co-founder and CEO Nick Coleman while they were at Aston University. The former went into advertising and the latter started a medical supplies business but after deciding they wanted to dip a toe in consumer goods they started Snaffling Pig, originally as a side project.
‘It was a product that we both love to eat, and when I sat down and looked at it from a market point of view I thought oh there's such an opportunity here,’ says Allen. From crisps to craft beer, the trend for ‘premiumisation’ has transformed most categories of food and drink but until recently the humble pork rind remained untouched.
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Snaffling Pig’s manufacturing is outsourced – ‘we're not butchers,’ says Allen. While some FMCG entrepreneurs start out with a passion for cooking their own products, it can be a challenge once the orders start coming in to scale up production – ‘you're forever one step away from being completely over your head in terms of capacity and demand. One of the first things we did was go and find someone who could make it for us, a third generation butcher who's cooked traditional scratching products for the last 35 years.’
With samples made up the pair went pitching from pub to pub in the bucolic towns of the Thames Valley. ‘The on-trade has always been at the core and always will be because it's such a natural fit. I love pubs. Every one is a little business and you meet so many interesting people and there's so many interesting things going on there.’ They’ve since secured listings with Ocado, Selfridge’s and Fenwick. As well as crackling they sell American-style pork rinds (known as pork crunch in the UK) and have plans to launch a range of traditional scratchings too.
In this financial year (which ends this month) the company will turn over around £1.5m. It was self-funded in the early stages but last year the pair appeared on Dragons’ Den, where they snaffled a £70,000 investment from Moonpig founder Nick Jenkins in return for 20% of the business. Many an entrepreneur leaves the show without a penny after a humiliating dressing down. Allen says the key to success is preparation. ‘It always amazed me that some people would go in having not really thought about it, and thought they could go in and it would all be fine.’
‘It was a calculated decision from a business point of view,’ he adds. ‘You can very easily get caught up in the TV machine and get chewed up and spat out the other side having been someone's entertainment for 10 minutes. But by the time we went to go in we felt really confident in what we had.’
Snaffling Pig now has a team of 10 people, split between finance, design, sales and distribution. Allen says organising their own deliveries is an important point of difference. ‘For trade we do free delivery next day, no minimum order. For the majority of brands it would be four or five cases minimum order and you've got to pay for delivery, and it will come one day of the week when that distributor is in the area.’
The next avenue of growth will be exporting. Allen says there’s a huge potential market in the all the places you’d expect pork products to be popular – the US, South America, Spain, Denmark, south-east Asia and China. They’ve also just launched a ham and mustard flavour in partnership with Unilever's Colman’s. ‘It’s just such a classic flavour combination, a gift from the porky gods,’ says Allen.
‘Big guys and small guys are naturally wary of each other but I think actually sometimes there's great stuff that can happen. The big guys aren't geared for innovation and the small guys aren't particularly geared for scale. If you put those two things together some really great stuff can happen.’