Our Sweet Journey
Welcome to Fudge Kitchen, my name’s Sian Holt...and this is our Story. For over 40 years we've strived to make the world's best fudge, and boy have those four decades been a rollacoaster.
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.