Our Sweet Journey
Welcome to Fudge Kitchen, my name’s Sian Holt...and this is our Story.
In the Beginning
It’s 1982 and I’m in London starting my final year of a business studies degree. The phone rings. I switch off the Young Ones, turn down Come on Eileen and put aside the ‘New Baby’ card I’ve been writing for Princess Diana before answering.
“Darling, it’s your mother. Are you doing anything later? No? Good. I have an American I need you to deliver.”
My parents had met a man called Jim on an American Civil War battlefield (naturally) and it fell to me to hire a car, pick him up from Heathrow and drive him to Kent. Jim was fascinating. When I asked what he did, he said…
“I make fudge!”
“Fudge? You make a living out of fudge?” I questioned,
“Not just any fudge." Jim said. "We make the best fudge in the world - and we’re nice to folks.”
It sounded simple but by the time we hit the Dartford Tunnel I’d realised he was a fudge guru and I was a convert to the cause.
6 months passed and I’d just finished my finals. The phone rings again. I mute Bladerunner and pause Mario Bros.
“It’s Jim – you know? The fudge guy? I’ve been drinking whisky in the bar with some Brit who says he owns Blackpool. He wants me to put a shop on his theme-park. It’s too far for me…will you do it?”
So, Jim sent a fudge shop in a shipping container along with a man to teach me how to make it, while I caught a train to Blackpool. Our sweet journey had begun. Oh - and here’s my dear Ma & Pa stirring one of the first Blackpool batches!.
From Blackpool to Bath and Beyond
Blackpool’s fun! We got our fortunes read, made ourselves sick on the rollercoasters and learned lots of new words but, in the end, the good people of the Pleasure Beach cared a bit more about kiss-me-quick hats and candy floss than what went into our premium fudge and how we made it. We needed to find a home that loved us. Somewhere we could hone our flavours and try things differently.
So, we headed for the cobbled streets of Bath. We developed our product and stunned the locals by offering samples to all who came through the door. Bath was a success, and York and Canterbury followed soon after.
The UK Goes Solo
In 1995, I bought the UK company from Jim (who remained as Chairman) and we began to find our own unique way of doing things. We introduced a bespoke motivational scheme so everyone could benefit from the company’s success and even introduced our own £WOW currency. Thanks to our amazing people and product, we survived two recessions in the 80’s and 90’s. We more than doubled the range of flavours and continued to establish new branches.
By the millennium we’d settled into our niche with Fudge Shops in key historic towns across the UK. We worked hard and we played harder. We led the way in speciality retail theatre entertaining our customers and our annual Fudgecons became the stuff of legend!
As the year 2000 approached we hid in a cave like everyone else, just in case the world was overrun with giant millennium bugs. When they failed to materialise, we stepped into the digital world with our first e commerce website, finding a way to connect to customers who didn’t live near one of our shops. It was almost exactly like that bit in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory when Mike TeaVee gets beamed across the room.
More shops opened and we began to offer on-site experiences, sharing our love for the art of fudgemaking and having fun.
But most of all this decade is about people. Dawn, Will, Mikey & Lee took the helm as Manager of the shops they still run today!
We’re so lucky to have such a loyal group - today more than 25% of our staff have been with us for 10+ years and 5 old hands over 20!
We also forayed into the world of shows and events - taking our fudges far and wide from County & National Flower shows to London Gift Fairs. ‘Dan in a Van’ hit the road and has been a familiar face on the shows trail for over 15 years. (He actually started with us back in 1986 so there’s not much he doesn’t know about all things fudge).
A Whole New Adventure
By around 2010 the call to wholesale our product had become too loud to ignore but our USP had always been fresh fudge made in front of the customer. We bribed some scientists with delicious fudge and after much experimentation we had a new, longer-life fudge range. Still unique, still handmade in small batches and still natural, we launched it in 2011…and discovered that we had the innovation bug.
Since that time, we’ve established a stand-alone production site, expanded our Fudge Family even further, created and launched over 70 new products and become respected as serious creators of sweet new things. Picking up over 20 Great Taste awards along the way as well as other industry awards.
Whilst already famous for our creative fudge flavours we took a deep breath and stepped out of our fudgey comfort zone. We created the most delicious Liquid Fudge Sauce and from this, my daughter Rebecca invented Drinking Fudge - the happiest of accidents and one of our best selling lines ever since. We learned many more sugar arts re-inventing and crafting FK versions of old favourites like brittles and coconut ice and new style caramels, toffees and paves.
We are proud to supply some of the UK’s best-known retailers, hotels and corporates with both branded and own-label products. Celebrating our 30th anniversary our fudge community, both internal and external, is as strong as ever.
Whilst our range is now stocked across the UK and even beyond through our export, our local connections remain very important to us. We’re active members of Produced in Kent where our head office and production facility are based and we enjoy being part of the local communities around each of our fudge shops.
Sadly in 2012 Jim passed away. RIP Jim, may your blood-sugar-levels remain eternally slightly higher than average.
Fudge Kitchen Today
2020 was certainly a challenge as COVID19 closed our shops for nearly a year but our two pillars of Product and People remain as steadfast as ever, largely thanks to our wonderful customers who’ve flocked to our website to show their support. In between the mandatory online quizzes, we’ve used our downtime to digitally transform the company and ensure we’re future-fit.
Most thrilling of all, the Fudge folk have banded together to establish a Green Team and go beyond People and Product to add a third business pillar – Planet. We want our products to not only taste good but feel good too. You can check out what we’re up to here.
And that’s our sweet journey. Simple really. We just want to make nice things and make things nicer for everyone along the way. We’re looking forward to seeing many of you face to face again in our shops, at our shows and at our events.
Making Life Sweeter
This is a serious bit – even fudge folk can be grown up when they need to be. And we’re clear about Our Purpose – it’s Making Life Sweeter – making nice things and making things nicer for all along the way. Just like Jim taught us.
Our Vision is to be the expert confectioners who create the most delicious, handmade, natural & trailblazing products in the world, delivered through an engaging and entertaining experience in a way that our competitors cannot match or imitate.
Our Business is built on 3 strong pillars:
Continuing to create amazingly tasty products by embracing change, improving productivity and spreading the word of fudge all around the world. No one does it quite like us!
Our fudge family are a highly skilled, fun-loving bunch. We want to keep it that way by continuing to nurture individuality & progression so we can deliver a unique, joyous, and genuine experience to all our customers.
Challenging ourselves to actively do more to find ways to reduce, repair, reuse, recycle and replace to minimise our environmental impact and give back wherever possible. Making nice things and making things nicer along the way.
Our Fudge Recipe
On the menu...
We’ve always gone ‘au natural’ in our kitchen, when it comes to the goods! We use entirely all-natural ingredients and flavourings, and source locally as much as possible. You’ll never find any preservatives in any of our recipes either!
We make sure as many people as possible can enjoy our products, and our naturally gluten-free recipe is one of them! Using only gluten-free ingredients, there’s no need to miss out. Even the biscuits we use are gluten-free!
The future of our planet and the people on it lie at the heart of what we do – making sure that our products not only taste good, but feel good too. Through our charitable support, and sustainable initiatives, you can rest easy, that your purchase is made with care and good intentions.
Over the past few years, palm oil has found it’s way into many confectionery products – but not at Fudge Kitchen. The use of palm oil contributes massively to deforestation, and the destruction of much of the world’s natural habitats.
Most of our packaging is already suitable for kerbside recycling and only uses plant and water-based glues. By end 2023 we aim to ensure 100% of our packaging is kerbside recyclable, compostable where possible, FSC accredited and sourced wherever possible from the UK.
Our fudge is naturally vegetarian, with no animal or animal byproduct making it’s way into our recipes. We’re working hard to expand our vegan offering too, and are proud to carry over 20 products bearing the Vegan Society seal of approval!
Giving a Fudge, the FK 2021 Sustainability Plan
We put together a Green Team to come up with our sustainability plan. It’s fun! They wear capes and yell at people for putting cans in the wrong bin.
But, they’ve also made a to do list...
Sort out our environmental impact.
Focus on being a business for Good.
Giving a Fudge
1. Our Environmental Impact: examining everything we do from our purchasing, production, products, people and processes with a view to making better daily choices that reduce our impacts, our inefficiencies & our carbon footprint by finding ways to reduce, repair, reuse, recycle or replace.
What we do now:
- When making our products
- Virtually zero food waste throughout our production processes and shops
- All-natural ingredients, 100% vegetarian, palm-oil free and a good range of plant-based/vegan options
- Certified-sustainable chocolate
- Local sourcing of raw materials wherever possible
- 76% of the electricity we use comes from renewable sources
- When sourcing and disposing of packaging
- Most of our packaging is already suitable for kerbside recycling and only uses plant and waterbased glues
- Waste re-cycling of paper and cardboard including suppliers’ packaging
We've signed up to the SME Climate Hub Commitment:
“Recognising that climate change poses a threat to the economy, nature and society-at-large, our company commits to take action immediately in order to:
- Halve our greenhouse gas emissions before 2030
- Achieve net zero emissions before 2050
- Disclose our progress on a yearly basis
In doing so, we are proud to be recognised by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign, and join governments, businesses, cities, regions, and universities around the world with the same mission.”
Targets in Progress:
- An accurate and audited measure of our current carbon footprint so we can create clear goals to reduce this over the next 3 years & beyond, including a switch to renewable energy sources
- Ensure 100% of our packaging is, at a minimum, kerbside recyclable*; compostable where possible and sourced wherever possible from the UK by end 2023
- Additionally to aim to have all new printed material on FSC/PEFC board and declared so on the packaging by end 2023
- Liaise with our suppliers to understand how they are measuring up sustainably
- Improve re-cycling and waste disposal at every site in 2021-2 and determine how far we can work towards zero waste going forward
- Consider Planet first in all new product development projects going forward
- Report our GHG Emissions and carbon footprint to the SME Climate Hub annually
*subject to local authority recycling policies
2. Striving to be a Business for Good: profit with purpose - to develop a clear, embedded Social Purpose so we work together to change lives, just by doing what we do every day.
What we do now:
- Historically we’ve appointed an annual charity of the year that has a link to one of the Fudge Family so we concentrate our giving to maximise our impact
- Every fudge shop regularly supports local charities through product donations
- We support FareShare through our new subscription product purchases on-line
Targets in Progress:
For 2021 and beyond we’ll be spreading our Fudge Love further. We’ve teamed up with the folks at FareShare through Work
for Good and B1G1 to really embed ‘giving back’ into our company.
Internally we’re linking some of our target achievements to B1G1 worthy causes, and online and in our shops, you’ll see a variety of products and promotions you can choose that come with additional impacts for causes around the world matching the UN SDG’s that have relevance for us.
We’ll be updating our giving progress as we go through the year.