All things toffee
Emma Walker, marketing director at Walkers Nonsuch, explains where it all began and what is on the horizon for the UK-based toffee manufacturer.
What is the background to the company?
Walkers Nonsuch was established in 1894 by my great grandfather Edward Joseph. He owned a tobacconist shop in the heart of the Potteries in Staffordshire and he started making toffee for his local customers. It all grew from there.
How has the industry changed?
There used to be a lot of family companies in the industry, but now there are only a few that remain. We made a company decision to make only our own brand ten years ago – we wanted to stay in control of our business and product quality. My grandad’s mission was ‘to make quality toffee at affordable prices’ and this still stands today.
What type of outlets do you sell through?
In the UK, we supply supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco, special food distributors to service delicatessens and garden centres, online and cash and carry wholesalers, who look after the independent retailers and convenience stores. We also supply 45 countries from Aruba to Australia. Scandinavia is a particularly strong area for us.
What are your best sellers and have these changed over the years?
Favourite varieties include Original and Brazil Nut Toffee, but now we are seeing the Liquorice toffee grow in popularity. We find our consumers are loving the strong tastes. To this day, we are the only manufacturer to make toffee bars which have been in production since the 1950’s.
How has the range developed?
We have now developed a range of everyday eating 150g bags in eight varieties which have proved very popular. The latest taste is the new Mint Toffee. This took us years to develop as we didn’t want the whole factory smelling of mint.
How do you promote and market your products?
For the last 44 years, we have exhibited at the ISM exhibition in Cologne. This gives us the chance to showcase our whole range and we see buyers from both the UK and abroad. Promotions are organised throughout the year to suit each market. In the UK, we work with the trade and consumer magazines and this year we have increased our social media presence and are in the process of building a new website.
What are your plans for the future and how do you see the company progressing?
This year, we have invested substantially in the business – we have acquired some extra land with more warehousing and we are having a new production line installed this month. We have a continuous packaging improvement programme whereby we update wrappers to include all new regulations and tweak designs across the range to keep the products looking modern and fresh. We are now looking at new products for 2017 such as a toffee variety, which includes the wrappers and different packaging formats to consider.
What is a typical day for you?
For me, my day varies from day-to-day. Sometimes I am office bound, catching up with emails, while other days I am at print runs, checking printing quality and colours, visiting photographers for our new website or preparing for exhibitions by looking at designs and preparing agendas. It’s great working in a small company as you get the chance to be involved in lots of different things.