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Interview: Freya Sykes of Ella Riley Toffee

Ella Riley’s founder tells us how she had to relocate to a different part of the UK in order to get the support that her business needed.

Ella Riley's Toffee

Ella Riley’s Toffee

Can you tell us more about your company and why you set it up?

We started the company 4 years ago to revive Riley’s Toffee, which was a family recipe passed down to me on a hand written note left by my granny, Ella Riley, whom the company is named after. We started selling the toffee from our first shop, which was really our old front room in our cottage in Yorkshire which we turned into a wee shop. Two years ago we started wholesaling the toffee and we made the conscious decision to supply only other small businesses like ourselves, and hence you won’t find our sweets in any of the big supermarkets.

How would you describe your product?

Very British, a little eccentric, and a quality sweet using only the best ingredients.

In what part of Britain are you based?

We were initially based in Yorkshire, but we are now based in Bridgend, in South Wales. We relocated the company because there are still a lot of EU funded grants available in Wales that were not in England, so we made the move and have never looked back.

Who makes your confectionery?

Our toffee is made by hand on our premises in Bridgend by hand, and visitors to the shop can actually see the toffee being made fresh every day.

Freya making her toffee

Freya making her toffee

Why did you decide to manufacture in Britain?

Riley’s Toffee is all about heritage – the toffee has been made in Britain since 1907, and is a very British brand. Since establishing our premises in Wales we are working with the local council to develop a major visitor attraction – our goal is to build an eco chocolate factory here. Think Eden Project but with chocolate – completely off the grid and eco friendly, Willy Wonka type structures and fantastical rooms.

What has been the hardest part of making your sweets in Britain?

We had to get the intellectual property rights from Kraft plc, who owned them at the time, little old us, up against Kraft and we won!
We also struggled to get help in England to grow our business, which was one of the main reasons that we moved to Wales. The difference in support from each region was in incredible.

And what has been the best part?

We have received fantastic advice and support from the Welsh Government, which has been invaluable in growing our manufacturing processes and selling to other markets. They’re really keen on encouraging manufacturing and exporting of goods from the region. We’ve now started exporting our toffee to the USA, and we’ve managed to do it without any support from our bank too.We really are proving that if you get the mix right you can still build a great business in a recession. If we can do it others can do it too!

You can sample Ella Riley’s toffee for yourself by visiting www.ellarileysweets.com

Ella Riley's Shop

Ella Riley’s Shop

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