Bay tree


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There is something about a business born through a genuine passion that makes a wonderful story.  When that passion translates into food as delicious as THE BAY TREE offerings, the story – in the case of your lowly scribe, at least – translates into a deep, deep hunger.  

THE BAY TREE’s founder, Emma Macdonald, has long had the afore mentioned passion for food.  A trained chef, she travelled the world in pursuit of different flavours and, on her return, started creating recipes in her mother’s kitchen.  Her first two creations, Aga dried tomatoes and a Cucumber Relish, were so mouth watering that they were instantly picked up by Fortnum & Mason and Harvey Nichols. Despite these somewhat humble beginnings, THE BAY TREE was born.

‘Right from the very start’, explains Emma, ‘we have married traditional cooking methods with innovative flavours.  We have a passion for tradition, but our inherent sense of adventure continues to push us, to fully explore many conceivable flavours, but only ever producing something that we are proud of.  These values are still central to our philosophy today; we call it making the ordinary extraordinary’.  The business quickly outgrew the kitchen: by 1996 they were supplying their products to 500 clients and by 2001, they had launched their initial entry in the premium supermarket sector, through Waitrose.  There are now over 150 recipes in THE BAY TREE product portfolio that are divided into six distinct lines: condiments, accompaniments, cooking sauces, preserves, speciality (such as ingredients for an indulgent pudding) and a gifting range.

By 2013, THE BAY TREE relocated its core operations entirely to Devon.  Shareholder Ted Clucas picks up the story.  ‘I was fortunate enough to sell my own business in 2007, just before the recession hit.  I wanted to invest my money in a sector that is ‘crash-proof’ and homed in on food.  I found Emma’s story highly appealing:  not only is the food delicious and of a peerless quality, I realised that they only needed a small part of the market to do very well indeed.  The UK consumer expenditure on food and drink in 2016 alone was £203bn; we have identified that an estimated 98% of UK households buy accompaniments and dressings.  Our typical customer enjoys experimenting with flavours and understands that our superior taste justifies the price.

With the business currently valued at £5.2m, now is the time to take a bold step.  We are very engaged with our vast and loyal clientele and have differentiated ourselves from our competitors in the following unique ways:  Through our website we offer our customers an opportunity to share and compare THE BAY TREE recipes and we are highly active on social media.  We hold tasting events (three in August 2018 alone) and taste panels confirm that THE BAY TREE offerings are well liked and taste unique. This has been accredited by several outstanding taste awards.  Emma has written two books, Home Deli Recipes and Preserving.  The brand is famous, respected and peerless.  Now we are ready to scale up the business in a serious way’.

With this intention, THE BAY TREE team is seeking funding to hire two sales and marketing experts.  This will enable consumers to firmly associate the Bay Tree brand as the leading premium manufacturer of condiments, pickles, chutneys and cooking sauces.  By extending and deepening their trading relationships with quality supermarkets - where products can be purchased in much greater volumes by premium consumers – they will increase their market share and the distribution of THE BAY TREE range. By continually analysing and eliminating underperforming lines, they will focus exclusively on the profitable product portfolio and thus drive efficiency in the business. 

To finish on a personal note, I cannot remember a time that I didn’t have a BAY TREE product in my kitchen.  My favourites are the Red Onion Marmalade and the Beetroot and Horseradish Relish, which, according to Emma, if you mix it with redcurrant jelly and allow to set, is the perfect accompaniment to cold beef.  Rumble.

This post was created on August 30 2018 by Victoria Maby