West Cork Biscuit Co. - Rendered on: 18/10/2017 06:41:44

West Cork Biscuit Co. Back

Stand:

N2802

Hall:

North Hall

Section:

Great British and Irish Food

Contact Details:

West Cork Biscuit Co.
Underhill
Dunmanway
Co. Cork
Tel. +353 (0)23 8895155

Country:

Ireland

Company Profile:

A small but progressive and modern artisan bakery producing handmade biscuits, cookies and crackers, in small batches, using only the finest natural ingredients including Irish butter and locally milled flours, Belgian chocolate and Irish oats.

Company Website:

www.regale.ie

Products:
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Belgian Chocolate Chip

Handmade Belgian Chocolate Chip Cookies with generous chunks made in West Cork, Ireland

Coffee and Walnut

Handmade Coffee and Walnut Cookies with chocolate chips

Ginger Spice

Handmade Ginger Spice biscuits with crystallised Ginger

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Product Categories:

Savoury Baked Products | Sweet Baked Products | Savoury Biscuits | Speciality & Continental Biscuits | Sweet Biscuits | Private Label Products

Press Releases:

Feb 24, 2017

Refusing to retire: Why the over 60s still have a passion for work

View the whole press release

Richard Graham-Leigh, founder of the West Cork Biscuit Company set up his business at 57. He is now 70 and only began to scale back his work hours when he reached this milestone birthday last year.
“I want to work because I still get pleasure from it,” he says. “I’d find it very difficult to give up completely as there is always something exciting and invigorating coming along. Right now we are completing a major rebranding exercise as well as launching new products. We are exhibiting on the Taste Cork stand at the big international food and drink event in London in March where we hope to give Walkers [a big name in biscuit making] a run for their money with our new all-butter shortbread.”
Starting a new business in one’s late fifties is unusual, but a passion for work among those over 60 is not.
“Sixty is the new 50 and 70 the new 60 they say and if you’re fit, interested and able then why not?” asks Graham-Leigh, whose early career was far removed from making biscuits.
He worked for years in retail management, specifically at Hamleys toy shop in London.
“When I eventually got tired of retail, I retrained in food. I was an executive chef in the City in London before moving to west Cork, a place I had fallen in love with as a lad while on holidays in a horse-drawn caravan. I started making biscuits and French patisserie and selling to local shops and at the Clonakilty farmers’ market before ‘getting serious’ about the business in 2007.
“Yes, you do have to make provision if you’re an owner/manager and I began that process a few years ago by setting up a small management team so I know the business is in good hands. ”

Aug 5, 2016

Inside Track: Richard Graham-Leigh, West Cork Biscuit Company

View the whole press release

Richard and Jane Graham-Leigh began producing handmade biscuits in west Cork in 2003 and now employ 18 people at their bakery in Dunmanway.
What is special about your business?
We are passionate about making excellent biscuit and cracker products using the best-possible, locally sourced ingredients including 100 per cent Irish butter.
What sets your business apart in your sector?
The fact that there is still a big handmade element to what we do. We are artisan producers, not mass producers and this can be seen in the quirkiness of the shapes of our biscuits: no two are exactly the same. They look handmade because they are.
They say timing is everything in business. How was yours?
On the face of it, possibly not very good. Although we had been making biscuits since 2003, we only launched our own Cookies of Character brand in 2007 as the economy started going downhill. However, we really weren’t affected by the slump as our biscuits were still seen as an affordable treat. In fact we grew throughout the recession and now employ 18 people.
Have you always been a baker?
No. I’m a late starter and set up this business with my wife, Jane, in my late 50s. My background had been in retail management. I worked for Hamleys toy shop in London. When I eventually got tired of retail, I retrained in food. I was an executive chef in the City in London before moving to west Cork, a place I had fallen in love with as a lad while on holidays in a horse-drawn caravan.
I started making biscuits and French patisserie and selling to local shops and at the Clonakilty farmers’ market before “getting serious” about the business in 2007.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Jumping through all the hoops required to achieve British Retail Consortium approval. We need it to sell in the UK to the likes of Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Fortnum & Mason. We have had to change all of our systems and follow every bit of regulation to the letter and go through multiple audits.
On the plus side it has made us more efficient and transformed us into a company capable of meeting the highest standards set by the multiples.
What has been your biggest success?
For the company it has been the development of a very slick and committed team capable of maintaining continuity and quality while also being open to new ideas.
On the commercial side it was being asked by Sheridan’s Cheesemongers to develop a cracker product for them. It was an overnight success and helped kick-start our business. The crackers are now exported all over the world. More recently, it was being invited by Dunnes Stores to work with them on their Simply Better range.
Artisan producers often find working with the multiples difficult. What has been your experience?
The opposite. Dunnes has an independent Simply Better department with dedicated buyers who are passionate about the quality of what they are buying. They also understand that there is a certain price at which we can make the product.
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting a business?
Don’t take on business you can’t afford to walk away from. Get help as soon as you can afford to. You can’t be good at everything and need to find people who do things – like chasing money – better than you do. If you don’t, you’ll drive yourself into the ground.
What’s been your best decision?
Having our former west Cork LEO [local enterprise office] mentor, Ger Devin, come work with us. He was really interested in the business and had all of the commercial expertise and savvy we lacked. I know how to make biscuits but I’m not good at selling them or negotiating, or knowing how to deal with the multiples. It’s second nature to him.
What could the Government do to help your business right now?
Start negotiations with the British on Brexit at once. We need to be able to sell easily into the UK. Ireland on its own is too small and as tastes are broadly similar what works here generally works there too. If trade barriers or tariffs are introduced it will be a serious problem for Irish producers. We need to be given special status.
In your experience are banks lending to SMEs?
Yes and I couldn’t say enough for AIB in Bandon and Dunmanway. They were extremely helpful. That said, they have also been strict and, if we stray, they come down on us like a tonne of bricks.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
Trying to be all things to all men in the early days and being afraid to turn things down.
What is the most frustrating part of running a small business?
Undoubtedly unnecessary red tape and regulations and the cost of complying with them. Some of what you’re asked to do is simply ridiculous, costs a lot of money and involves an unbelievable amount of paperwork.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
We haven’t really thought about its value. It’s still very much a work in progress although we’re really beginning to get places now. Let’s put it like this: we’re not thinking of selling but are planning to take on an investor.

Sep 23, 2013

West Cork firm hits on a cracking idea for success

View the whole press release

Regale Biscuits in Clonakilty specialises in hand-made cookies and biscuits while also making own-brand crackers for Sheridans Cheesemongers. One of its signature products is Baci di Dama (Lady’s kisses) which it sold by the thousand this year to a hamper company which shipped them to Belgium where l’Oreal used them for promotions.

Employing a staff of five, Regale is working on plans to develop exports while also finalising negotiations with a multiple which is looking for a supply of own-label biscuits to go on the shelves in dozens of stores by November.

Regale founder and managing director, Richard Graham-Leigh is now working on new packaging and contemplating taking on three additional staff.

He says that the level of success is surprising, given the fact that it started out as a tiny home enterprise and the operation almost didn’t survive when a bakery, which was contracted to make its products, closed suddenly last autumn.

But Mr Graham-Leigh found a premises in Lisavaird in Clonakilty, took on staff, filled Christmas orders and the company has both survived and grown.

The Regale story begins with Mr Graham-Leigh and his wife Jane falling in love with West Cork, buying a run-down cottage in Dunmanway and needing money to repair it. He had been a London chef while she had worked for HR in Unilever.

Although the move to Ireland in 1998 was intended as retirement, Mr Graham-Leigh started making hand-made cookies for Clonakilty market in 2003. “We made chocolate chip cookies, orange shortbread and Baci de Dama, put them on a wallpaper table and they sold out in an hour.” After that they converted a barn at the farmhouse into a kitchen and started a small business.

“We had a lot of luck and were in the right place at the right time. Inchydoney Hotel became our first corporate customer and Urru, an artisan food store in Bandon, became our first retail customer.”

The couple expanded the range to include traybakes and French patisserie and sold to a number of farmers markets and restaurants in Cork county.

“But we found by 2009 that we were doing a lot of work with little return and decided to give it up or take it more seriously,’’ says Mr Graham-Leigh who then enrolled in a programme for small producers with the help of the West Cork Enterprise Board.

“We refocused, reduced our range to cookies and biscuits, branded the products and sourced packaging. We called them Cookies of Character and launched at SHOP at the RDS in September.”

Looking for a distributor in 2011 they approached Sheridans Cheesemongers which distributes a range of Irish artisan foods to their cheese customers. Shortly afterwards Sheridans asked Mr Graham -Leigh to develop hand-made crackers “I spent four months perfecting recipes for Irish brown bread crackers, mixed seed cracker and rye and linseed crackers. Sheridans launched them at SHOP in Sept 2011.”

Two years later around half of Regale’s income comes from selling crackers to Sheridans which exports them to the US, Australia, the UK and Scandinavia. During this time Sheridans has distributed Regale’s cookies to speciality food stores around Ireland and the company has also sold to hamper companies.

Within a year of signing with Sheridans Mr Graham-Leigh found that the company, which was still operating from a converted barn , was struggling to keep up with demand.

In Feb 2012 he outsourced production to a bakery in Dunmanway which had spare capacity. This worked well until the bakery closed in October and Regale found itself without the means to fill its Christmas orders.

Taking on three staff, Regale restarted production in the converted barn running double shifts. But in November the company found a new premises in Clonakilty and shifted production there.

“We were sending out two or three pallets a week each containing an average 1,728 boxes of crackers. We were making the crackers by hand, filling the boxes by hand and didn’t get much sleep.”

Since then Regale has invested in new packing machinery and now employs a staff of five at the 2,500 sq ft premises.

The company is working on developing new packaging for its Cookies of Character with a view to developing exports with the help of Sheridans.

Mr Graham-Leigh is expecting significant growth next year. “This year our turnover will have quadrupled since 2010 and in 2014 we expect it to increase by a further 25%”

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