The company was established in 1983 and runs eight stores, but has only recently started selling its products in other retailers.
It has invested £250,000 in its first standalone factory in Kent with support from local government. The new facility, due to open at the end of this month, will double the firm’s production volumes.
Thanks for looking after the cat
Fudge Kitchen managing director Sian Holt told ConfectioneryNews.com “Fudge has previously been seen to be the poor man’s confection”
A lot of fudge is the kind you “take home for the person who looks after your cat… the tacky seaside resort type confectionery”, she said.
Gap in market for premium fudge
The company analyzed market trends and noticed UK consumers were moving towards freshly made, artisan food.
“People became much more concerned about where their food came from,” said Holt.
“What we realised was there was no fudge in the position we were [premium fudge] in the retail market,” she continued.
According to the MD, high-end gourmet food products are “a new category for British confectionery”.
She said there had been a boom in the UK chocolate market in the last few years, leading to interest in artisanal chocolatiers, but no one was doing this for fudge. The company therefore planned to break into wholesale.
“The first thing we had to do was solve the shelf life of our products,” said Holt.
Fudge Kitchen's products had a shelf life of just 5-7 days, making it unsuitable for most retail outlets, but it entered into a government-funded knowledge transfer partnership with a graduate student, which took around 18 months and extended the shelf life of its whipping cream fudge to six months.
During the process, the company also invented a range of handmade fudge sauces by mistake. It was exploring packaging options to extend shelf life and the fudge imploded in a vacuum pack, which liquidized the product.
The company is now present in speciality food stores and in the gift foods sector, but plans to stay clear of supermarkets, which could tarnish its premium image.
Private label discussions
Fudge Kitchen currently has no private label customers, but it is in discussions with a high end retailer and a ‘well-known’ confectionery company.
Holt said she hoped to bridge the gap between fudge and premium chocolate, adding that her company’s competitors were any firm in premium confectionery, not only in fudge.
Growth through innovation
The company hopes to grow through NPD in the same mold as premium chocolatiers.
Fudge Kitchen sells butter gourmet fudge in 26 flavors and in three key formats: miniatures, sticks and sharing squares.
Recent introductions have included drinking fudge and a range based on British puddings such as apple crumble and sticky toffee pudding.
Holt said fudge was not just a gifting product and could also be an everyday indulgence in the same way as chocolate.