Family snack business aims for new export markets and expansion with re-designed packaging

A Cheshire family food business is looking to expand into Europe, thanks to new sugar-free products and plastic-free packaging.

Sweet Nothing Snacks, based in Bunbury, is adding to its range of award-winning healthy snacks and thanks to a series of local business courses, has export in its sights.

The family business produces sugar-free, gluten and fat-free flapjacks and was on the cusp of signing their first international deal when the issue of packaging stopped them in their tracks.

“David Attenborough quite rightly educated us all about the horrors of plastics and we realised we needed to completely rethink our packaging,” says owner Stuart Andrew.

“We are working on significantly reducing the plastic packaging content within the next 2 months, with the aim of removing it altogether, replacing it with paper and compostable alternatives which will work well for our new range of delicious sugar-free cookies.”

Stuart first started the business when his family bakery business closed four years ago. He had noticed that he was increasingly being asked for sugar-free or low sugar alternatives, so when he and his wife Lindy took the painful decision to close their bakery, he started to look into producing healthier options.

With four products in the current range and a selection of cookies being added to the mix, Stuart was getting solid queries from further afield, but knew he needed some business advice before changing his packaging and exporting the products.

“We were in detailed discussions with potential customers in Scandinavia last year and when the extent of the plastic scandal was revealed, I knew I had to act. It doesn’t fit with our company ethos to endanger living creatures and our existing and potential customers would not thank us for it.”

Stuart signed onto a series of workshops/masterclasses, at no charge, with the University of Chester, in order to ensure that he was clear on the regulation issues and the technicalities involved in the changes and exporting.

“It was hugely helpful,” says Stuart. “It meant I was ready to take the leap and the course leaders also put me in touch with some great people, who have helped me with my finance, my logistics and my digital marketing.”

These workshops and support are being offered to businesses in the region, as part of the ERDF-funded Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme, which provides fully funded support to pre-start, new startups and SMEs3. The programme delivers bespoke expertise and knowledge by signing companies up with relevant delivery partners to supply one–to-one meetings, workshops, seminars and masterclasses.

“We’re now ready to bring our flapjacks, cookies, and new packaging, to a wider market,” says Stuart, whose products are already stocked in health food shops and eateries all over the UK. “We’re working with specialist distributors and wholesalers and are really looking forward to getting our products sold a bit further afield. 

Jeff George, NoWFOOD Centre Manager at the University of Chester, says: “We were delighted to help Stuart – his products are really high quality and hitting all the right consumer notes with their sugar-free content and plastic-free packaging. The company just needed guidance as it grew.”

Concludes Stuart: “Attending activities under this Programme not only gave me the skills to go for it, it also meant that I met a lot of people in similar self-employed positions and this also gave me the confidence. I would advise anyone thinking of setting up or growing a business to look into the options on this programme.”