English meatloaf, burger, and meatball producer Muddy Boots is this week fitting out its first store in Crouch End, North London.
Muddy Boots is the creation of Miranda and Roland Ballard, a couple who in 2008 gave up their London media careers and moved to a farm in the Worcestershire town of Martley.
Now they are moving back, while also keeping their farm.
Their high-end products are available in Waitrose and Ocada stores. Using traceable meat from their own farm, the new goal is to open their own chain of butcher stores — coupled with wine, charcuterie, a lunch menu, and culinary courses.
They want to go from their current €600,000 turnover to €12m within five years, while opening 10 UK stores in the process.
The couple turned down the offer of a listing in around 80 Tesco UK stores. They assessed that, at their niche sales volumes, the likely profit margins were not worth the risks and the extra distribution and chilling costs.
“The figures just didn’t work for us,” said Miranda. “Maybe if we were doing a chutney, something with a longer shelf-life, it might have been different. People also told us that they really didn’t want to see our product in a big retail outlet.
“We will continue to supply Waitrose and Ocado. We think it is great to see the way supermarkets have grown in the last 10 years, but we think there is also a place for a small company committed to producing a high-end, quality, traceable product.”
The couple’s confidence in their focused retail hopes for Muddy Boots is based upon success stories such as drinks brand Innocent, Tyrrells Crisps, Green & Black chocolates, and pudding brand Gu.
“Traditional butchery is a very attractive business to be in, but we think people want a store that stays open a bit later.”
Miranda, who spent six weeks in Dublin during a gap year, says ambitious Irish farmers could easily enjoy success with a similar self-owned retail model.
“Dublin is a very exciting city,” said Miranda. “We all know that Irish farmers produce high-quality food, and they could certainly find their own place in the retail market.
“Supermarkets have enjoyed incredible success, but I think it’s time for the next generation to come through with a new model for food retail. I don’t see why a lead can’t be taken from people with a farming background.
“Anyone who has put in long hours selling their produce on farmers’ market stands is certainly not afraid of hard work. We’ve done those markets, in some cases only making 4p profit per pack sold. Now we’re saying ‘no thanks’ to that model and we’re going to try our hand at something new.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved