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Confectioners Smith & Sinclair on innovation in the food sector & building their brand

Understanding your market is fundamental to building a successful brand so we are continuously researching and testing out both growing current markets and new markets

Why is it that the best ideas are more often than not the simplest?

The Smith & Sinclair duo, Emile Bernard and Melanie Goldsmith – founders of the alcoholic candy brand – stumbled upon theirs through a fortunate stroke of serendipity. Originally working together to create fun dating night events, all was going well, but for one thing, as they explain: “The one thing that didn’t fit in was waiting for a drink at the bar.”

So promptly finding a solution to their problem, they invented a ‘Candy Bar’ — a range of deconstructed cocktails for eating, whose popularity started generating its own revenue. After a trial run of a market stall in Berwick St to setting up their first website, Emile and Melanie managed to bag an order of 20,000 pastilles, five days after launching.

Fast forward a couple of years and Smith & Sinclair have successfully created their own niche of edible cocktails, retailing in stores such as Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Harrods as well as pairing with like-minded brands to create quirky experiences.

Their latest collaboration is a pop-up with Tanqueray London Dry Gin called The Flavour Rooms. And with a new space in Bermondsey, a pending patent and a growing team, Smith & Sinclair look set to becoming a household brand of the future. In between pop-ups and innovating, we snagged a few minutes with Mel to find out more.

Q) How would you describe your brand in 5 words?

Innovative, playful, adult, enigmatic, colourful.

Q) This is your first venture, and you’ve created an innovative product. What was the impetus behind setting up your own business and the inspiration behind creating an alcoholic sweet brand?

It was very organic. We created the product range for a series of events we were running and the products were very quickly a revenue stream for us. We realised how few products on the shelf instigated an experience of fun, an ice breaker and saw quite quickly that we could own this space.

Q) How important was the market research process to your business?

Understanding your market is fundamental to building a successful brand so we are continuously researching and testing out both growing current markets and new markets. We’re also quick to react if a strategy based on market research doesn’t go to plan.

Q) What challenges have you faced bringing your product to market?

A lot. We face challenges every day from sourcing the most cost effective ingredients to hiring to cashflow. Starting a business is like playing whack-a-mole. Whenever one challenge is nailed another one comes about very quickly.

Q) What’s been your biggest highlight so far, and why?

This year has been filled with highlights from moving into our own space in Bermondsey to growing the team and coming to the end of launching our new packaging.

Q) What excites you about your sector?

Our business takes inspiration from fashion, art, food, theatre with the lead driver being a product for ‘experience seekers’ which is such an exciting sector to sit in as it’s the future. As technology develops we need to continue the same innovation in more static products such as a food or drink gift.

Environmental changes affect our taste, with our bitter taste receptors lessening and therefore craving more bitter foods which is why we’re now over farming cocoa, as chocolate has a higher percentage in it now

Q) What do you foresee as the current trends / culture that will impact our ideas of food & drink?

We’re already seeing how the environmental changes affect our taste, with our bitter taste receptors lessening and therefore craving more bitter foods which is why we’re now over farming cocoa, as chocolate has a higher percentage in it now. Additionally we are going to start seeing consumers expecting more from their food and drink choices: more theatre, more flavour, more unusual flavours and presentation as we can dream up so much in augmented and virtual realities – we will need to match this in reality.

Q) What’s been the most valuable thing you’ve learnt since launching your own business?

Take risks.

Q) What advice would you give entrepreneurs starting their first venture?

Say yes, just make sure you can figure it out when you walk away.

Q) What was the last book that you read?

Girlboss.

Q) What’s on your current playlist?

TLC, D’Angelo, Earth Wind & Fire…amongst many many more.

Q) What’s next?

Surprises to come!

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