Meet the co-founders of Beckleberry's
Beckleberry’s is a proud father & sons business that began life back in 1996 when Peter (eldest son) came to the conclusion that a traditional university pathway just wasn’t for him. Fortuitously this decision was made at the very same moment his father (Ian), a recently redundant ex-colliery engineer was wondering how best to invest his hard-earned redundancy money.
Both shared a slightly obsessive love for ice cream and their proud Northern roots and both were determined to tap into their region’s long-standing manufacturing heritage by founding a business that made something upbeat and tangible.
On a whim Peter & Ian enroled themselves on a short summer ice cream course at Reading University, the first tentative steps towards something very special.
Any family business is an amazing experience, but a father and son combination, is impressive. When did you both decide it was the right time?
From the outset my father & I were determined to attach some golden rules goals to our brand, unflinching commitments that would help shape our company’s future brand and enable us to stand proud from the freezer.
- No limp, half-hearted flavours or 2ndclass ingredients!
- No artificial or synthetic nasties (colourings, flavourings, preservatives…..)
- Source locally and support the surrounding economy whenever possible (dairy supplies…)
- Avoid excessive mechanisation (champion human craft where feasible)
- Champion a small batch outlook over large mechanized production lines
- Keeping masking sugars to a minimum (hence more adult-orientated flavours)
The timing for such a stance was perfect because it coincided with many customers falling out of love with soulless corporate fayre. Today consumers scrutinize their ingredient decks like never before and are actively on the lookout for smaller product specialists with a refreshing slant on what best-in-class means.
A recycling, eco-friendly theme permeates throughout our business; from our factory which is a revitalised ambulance depot, to our flagship ice cream van (events and exhibitions)which is a vintage 1975 Ford, and flavours that from time to time encompass an upbeat retro vibe (e.g. Blackcurrant & Gin sorbet).
Who is your target audience?
Ice cream enthusiasts who crave clean deck recipes with a little more oomph. This isn’t to say that we don’t make a few wrong turns along the way with concept brands (Curried Pineapple & Parsnip & Balsamic Vinegar not making it out of our new concept trials.
We’re very proud of our Northern provenance which is why our strapline reads ‘ Gourmet with a Northern Soul’ especially when you consider that many of our die-hards are consumers who share our pride in the North’s proud foodie roots.
I’d also suggest that our award-winning sorbets have tapped into a time when the lactose-friendly fraternity are increasingly on the lookout for their own ice cream alternative. Our sorbets showcase bold, fantastical flavours, a far cry from the synthetic citric acid infused atrocities of the 70’s, when scooping out lemons and oranges seemed the very pinnacle of sorbet sophistication.
Business is always filled with ups and downs, but what has been your proudest moment so far?
There are a number worthy of consideration from our first airline break (2004) when the ‘world’s favourite airline’ came calling, to the unveiling of our onsite innovation centre (2017). Of course there’s also the moment our new ‘Gourmet with a Northern Soul’ packaging came trundling down the line (also 2017). That said, our finest ‘step change’ moment undoubtedly came in 2008 when our Blackcurrant & Kirsch sorbet won the Fortnum & Mason Supreme Champion trophy (the very top Great Taste award).
What has been the biggest obstacle?
A curious, misplaced belief that British ‘foodiedom’ is strongest in the South West & Home Counties. I can assure you that from a foodie perspective the North East is galvanised and dynamic!
Where did the inspiration come from, to launch Beckleberry?
Inspiration comes from many sources including our proud Northern heritage and our determination to enjoy the adventure together (a bona-fide family business). I’d also like to pay tribute to my nan’s drinking cabinet to whom Beckleberry’s owes a significant debt of gratitude.
The reason I mention this is whenever we were looking for a fantastical flavour to refresh our sorbet collection (Sour Cherry & Amaretto, Blackcurrant & Kirsch…..), this alcoholic Aladdin’s cave provided a constant source of retro inspiration.
If you could pass on one tip, to fellow entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Research your category properly before taking the plunge. It’s all very well creating a one-off wonder, but to succeed you need a constant stream of first-to-market innovation. Local provenance is also something to take seriously since a local loyalist following is key to getting out of the blocks nice and fast.
What plans do you have for Beckleberry, over the coming months?
Export is becoming increasingly important to us as British foodie prowess overseas continues to expand (this is truly a golden age for our artisan food & drinks sector).
We’re also looking to reduce our carbon footprint, be that recycling our cardboard more effectively or exploring water and heat recovery systems.
Free from is another area where great tastes remain in short supply, a real opportunity for the cake & patisserie side of our business to take another significant stride forwards.