Couple turned love of cooking into sauce business worth £500,000 a year

FROM ketchup to mayo we Brits love a condiment – but this couple managed to turn their own homemade concoctions into a sizzling business.

James and Pam Digva, from Nottingham, got bored of the mainstream sauces most of us love and started off making their own at home – eventually turning their hobby into a business that now turns over £500,000 a year.

The British sauce brand began in 2014, in the kitchen of husband and wife founders Pam, 34, and James Digva, 35

James, 35, told the Sun Online: “Looking at the ingredient lists for some mainstream sauces was more like reading a science experiment than a list of food ingredients. We knew we could do better.

“Pam and I always wanted to launch our own business.

“Our jobs at the time were in the food industry, so we knew the basics of what we needed to do to bring a food product to the wider market.”

In four years, Sauce Shop has gone from selling at their farmer’s market in West Bridgford to supplying 250 branches of Sainsbury’s and online to shoppers via Ocado.

It is also shipped as far as Sweden and the Middle East.

Production has soared from around 200 bottles a week when they first started, to now 10,000 from their very own sauce-making unit in Sneinton, a village in Nottingham.

The company now employs seven people and is aiming to recruit more in the UK and overseas.

The couple launched three of their best-selling sauces into 250 Sainsbury’s stores across the UK in May

Production has soared from around 200 bottles a week from pots, pans and funnels in their home kitchen to about 10,000 from a unit in Sneinton

The couple went to sell some of their concoctions at their local farmers market for the first time in 2014.

James said: “We had a very basic setup. We didn’t want to spend too much money on the labels or bottles as we were just a couple of months off getting married! But our sauces sold pretty well (about 30 bottles) and the feedback was great.”

Of course, setting up your own business is not as easy as it sounds.

Britain’s battle of the bottles

Ketchup, mayo, brown sauce – which ones do we like the most?

  • Goodbye ketchup, hello mayo: Hate it or love it Mayonnaise toppled tomato ketchup as our favourite bottled sauce for the first time in September last year.
  • How much do we love it?: A lot! Industry figures show mayo sales rose by 6.9 per cent to £152.2million, while ketchup plunged by 2.7 per cent to £145.5million in 2017.
  • How come? Experts say the shift is a sign of our changing tastes towards healthier foods and new flavours and varieties.
  • Is mayonnaise the only new favourite out there? No, buyers are also turning to more exotic sauces such as peri peri and chilli chutneys.
    Out of the 171 new condiments introduced into some of the biggest supermarkets in 2017, almost half were considered to be of the more “adventurous variety” such as chilli or barbecue.

Both Pam and James continued to work full-time in the food industry for a year while preparing their sauces in the evening and selling them on weekends.

During the first few months the couple were making sauces in 5kg batches on the hob at home in a stockpot and filling them by hand with a funnel into the bottles.

They’ve also ran several crowdfunding campaigns to raise funds for a new range of sauces or manage the listing in Sainsbury’s.

James said: “We had a small pot of savings to live off but the pressure was on to make enough money from the business to cover our living expenses.”

“We invested some of our earnings into better equipment so that we could produce more sauce per batch. It wasn’t always easy but it was exciting to work on a product we believed in and we were passionate about.

All of their sauce recipes use only high quality natural ingredients, with no thickeners, stabilisers, artificial flavourings, preservatives or added water

Sauce Shop had to scale up from pots, pans and funnels in their home kitchen to new premises, which houses a 200L boiling pan and semi-automatic filling machine, in order to meet their forecast bottle production of 750,000 for 2018

“We worked on getting out to as many events as possible to sell our sauces, promoting our products through social media, which helped us to make contacts and grow our number of stockists.

So, what makes Sauce Shop a success?

The range includes 17 sauces as well as favourites like South Carolina BBQ Sauce, Tomato Ketchup or their their fermented aged Amarillo Hot Sauce, which takes three months to produce.

How to turn your homemade sauces into a sizzling business

HERE are Pam and James’ tips:

  • Be money savvy: Always know your numbers from the start – for example how much you will spend on equipment and packaging. Also make sure you have some cash reserve, as you’ll likely spend more than you intended in the beginning
  • Be social media savvy: As soon as you can, get your business on social media like Instagram or Facebook. Accoding to Pam and Jam, it really helped them to create brand awarenes and meet stockist.
  • Know you product:  Pam and James both graduated with food related degrees and worked in the industry – so they knew the basics of what they needed to do to bring a food product to market and sell it to the public.
  • Have a good network of people you can rely on: Going it alone would have been very hard, according to the couple. So make sure you have a strong support network to help you through the difficult times.

All of their sauce recipes use only high quality natural ingredients, with no thickeners, stabilisers, artificial flavourings, preservatives or added water.

Depending on where it is sold a 200ml bottle of sauce would set you back £2.50 and up to £3.50.

James said: “In the UK the main sauce brands you’ll have are either hands or owned by Unilever, so we’re quite proud to be supporting the local economy and that also makes us stand out on the shelves.”

The Digvas also recently became parents for the first time after Pam gave birth to a little boy last year. So, what’s it like working with family?

Pam said: “James and I have different skills sets, so it’s actually very helpful. I’m more into sales and marketing while he’s more into numbers – so we don’t step onto each other toes.

“Going it alone would have been very hard and it’s good to have someone to share all the stress and struggles with.”

“Of course as every new parent, we are tired. But the business also allow us to be more flexible. I wouldn’t have that flexibility in a nine to five job.”

The Sun Online also recently spoke with a dad-of-four who turned selling fish tanks on eBay into a million pound business.

Earlier this month, we also revealed how a mum of two’s quest to spend more time with her kids prompted her to launch her own beauty shop and it now has an impressive turnover of £130,000 a year.

Bored of your current job? This dad-of-two quit his banking job to set up children’s hairdressers and it now makes £650,000 a year.

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