Name: Mike Stevens
Job title: Master of Mints
Twitter url: @peppersmithuk
Linkedin url: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikejstevens/
Tell us about your job/company/role?
Peppersmith was founded by myself and my good friend Dan Shrimpton in 2009 with a vision to shake up confectionery. Since 2015, I have been MD of the business and responsible for everything we do. I like getting involved in all areas of the business but very much know my limitations and am lucky to be surrounded by an amazing team who make it all happen.
What drew you to working in the confectionery industry? (Apart from the free chocolate!)
I was inspired by chocolate but not motivated by it. Let me explain, I was lucky enough to spend eight years on the start up team at innocent drinks. innocent was one of the first companies to put a real focus on the combination of natural ingredients, health, sustainability with a brand to tell the story. innocent and other similar brands inspired a sea change across just about every category apart from sugar confectionery. High volume, low cost was the overriding mantra when we got started. Chocolate had begun to change with great brands like Green & Blacks, Divine and Tony’s Chocolonely leading the way. This gave us the belief that a better made, better for you brand in sugar confectionery and in particular in gum and mints could work.
Sugar free and reduced sugar are the number one thing everyone should be working on right now. As a company who think a lot about this, there is no easy answer.
What do you love most about your job?
Making a real change in the category. Things needed shaking up and I am glad our efforts are making a difference. Rather than worrying about increased competition, I love it when the bigger brands start imitating what we do, whether it is with ingredients, packaging or marketing. It shows our thinking is helping the category do a better job for the consumer and hopefully the planet.
What do you dislike most about your job?
Having to explain where the name Peppersmith came from. The truth is a bit complicated and I have not had the time to make up a pithy fun backstory.
What is your biggest creative achievement so far?
With my co-founder Dan, creating a brand that has challenged the category status quo. I am pretty chuffed with the packaging too.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Probably still wandering into store, facing up Peppersmith products and badgering the store staff to put more out if there are any missing products. Old habits die hard.
Describe a typical work day.
As an entrepreneur, I have trouble with the concept of typical. I do like a coffee though, in my trusty Keep Cup, of course.
What do you do enjoy doing outside of work?
I have a young family so, of course, it is a pleasure to spend as much time with them as possible. I also like a spot of tennis and have been known to read. The combination of a book and Spotify allows the Mrs to indulge in her Strictly fix without worrying about me. Something for everyone.
What do you think will be the next big thing in the confectionery world?
Sugar free and reduced sugar are the number one thing everyone should be working on right now. As a company who think a lot about this, there is no easy answer. The category needs to think carefully about the balance of taste, quality and cost. Taking out sugar can lead to rubbish tasting products, full of weird chemicals, which are potentially more expensive. Naturally derived xylitol is our solution but all brands must work harder for their answer
Apple or Android?
Apple but we are not in an exclusive relationship.
What is your favourite book or podcast?
How long have you got? So many great recommendations. My latest favs are Shoe Dog the story of Nike (currently reading it for the second time) and for the ears, Masters of Scale and Business Wars get the juices flowing.
Where do you stand on social media – can’t live without it, or an evil necessity?
Ah always a talking point. I love the fact you can get access to great recommendations and see what brands are up to. I do have a problem with Instagram right now as much as I love an amazing photo, I find the experience a bit shallow. I want to be able to meditate on a post and dive into more detail. Instagram is a bit too fast and furious for my liking. Twitter is my platform of choice but I am probably just showing my age.
If you could change one thing in the confectionery industry, what would it be?
To take health more seriously. We all have a responsibility to do a better job, this means better product development, more education and an acceptance that cheap is no longer a good long term strategy for anyone.
What’s the biggest misconception about working in confectionery?
You spend your days with chubby orange skinned factory workers wearing stripy dungarees.
What advice would you give to other people looking to get into the confectionery industry?
Make sure you are up for a real challenge.
Time's up! Thank You Mike
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