A few years back - way before I had children (OMG a lifetime ago!) I was at a show at Ardingly Showground when a stall offering vinaigrettes caught my eye. I had just got into balsamic glaze (if you haven't tried it you need to!) and these dressings were sweet and fruity and perfect for BBQs.
Since then I have come across them at my local village deli alongside The Bay Tree pasta and have seen the company grow from a local handmade set up to a national operation.
Being on the start up side myself, I wondered whether this inspiring woman would speak to me and answer some burning business questions I couldn't get google to answer.
I wrote an email to the company - https://www.suzannesvinegars.co.uk. I was surprised to get a reply from Suzanne directly agreeing to not only meet me, but to meet me within my very strict childfree hours.
Here I am waiting for her to arrive!
Well as it turns out, her family is not new to business. Her Great Grandmother actually founded Maynards Wine Gums and her Uncle only founded Kenwoods!!
So firm roots in the food industry!
When Suzanne was growing up, her family made vinegars at their Sussex home for the Sunday lunch. They used fruits from tha garden such as Elderberry and Raspberry.
As Suzanne grew older and had her own family, she continued this tradition in her home, and when she established a Guest house in Devon, she set up cookery courses for her guests. It always amazes me just how much women seem to be able to achieve; raising a family, running a guest house AND cookery courses "on the side"!
Suzanne moved back to Sussex and comntinued with her vinegars, but this time evolving her recipe and showcasing them at local fares and shows. It was either herself or a family member that must have sold to me those years ago at Ardingly.
Suzanne remembers working in her kitchen late at night prior to events once the chldren were asleep. An evening I recognise all too well! She won a Waitrose cooking competition and took her products to bigger shows. It was at the Regional trade show in Exeter that she got her big break.
Someone approached her from a company who manufacture on a large scale. They worked together to adjust a recipe for larger scale production. This is where I am. How do you multiply 'a pinch of salt' by 100 or 1000? When you increase the volume of production, the margin of error can be huge, and it can all go horribly wrong! Recently I have been able to remove an ingredient in my gluten free playdough because I found that 5ml too much of something may not have an effect, but 1 litre of an ingredient in a larger portion may be a completely different story.
Today Suzanne still sells directly - mainly to catering companies, but does not manufacture. The Bay Tree handle all her regular wholesale distributions.
Here is Suzanne and I after our little lunch with our products! She was such an inspiration and a very kind person who deserves all her success. <3