Scottish Grocer speaks to Jeremy Dee, MD of Swizzels
FAMOUS retro sweets firm Swizzels Matlow has an interesting past. Current MD Jeremy Dee’s grandfather teamed up with the Matlow brothers to make confectionery in London’s east end before the war.
When the blitz hit, the company moved to an old candle wick factory in Derbyshire. It was supposed to be a temporary measure but the company is still on the much extended Derbyshire site, is Britain’s largest family-owned independent confectionery firm, and is number-three firm in the kids sugar confectionery market. Among owners and staff it’s easy to find stories of family involvement in the firm spanning generations.
But pleasing as all that is to Jeremy Dee, he’s more interested in the future.
“We’ve got quite an ambitious and aggressive growth plan, set out in 2012, to double the size of the business by 2020,” he said
That would take the company’s turnover to £100m – a big number, but on the basis of last year’s growth it’s well on track.
As part of the plan the firm, which owns some of Britain’s most established and popular (loved even) sugar confectionery brands including Love Hearts, Refreshers and Drumstick lollies, is, to consumers, now clearly “Swizzels”. Research showed that the public already thought of the company by that name.
Packaging on the individual brands has been refreshed. And innovation has been vitally important to the growth achieved so far and will be to the substantial growth the company has targeted, Dee said.
The kids sugar confectionery category in general and Swizzels Matlow especially had proved inventive, flexible and versatile in recent times and that was paying off with sales increases that were ahead of chocolate confectionery and mainstream sugar confectionery.
“The sector has increased in popularity because it is an affordable treat,” Dee said.
“It’s adapted well by offering £1-marked packs and developing sharing and gifting lines.
“Swizzels has reduced the price of its pocket money lines to 10p, with shelf-ready packs, boldly flashed.
“Seasonal’s a big part of our business. We were the fastest growing manufacturer at Halloween last year, up 33%. And at Christmas we were again fastest growing, up 60%.
“Christmas was seen as a season that was dominated by chocolate but we identified that there was an opportunity for kids sugar confectionery. Our Sweet Shop Favourites tin was the fastest growing brand in kids sugar confectionery for Christmas.
“And it did a great job of highlighting Swizzels and linking our brands to the corporate identity.”