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Guy Tullberg: “The big multiples are a graveyard for products”

Founded by William Tullberg, the company began life his selling homemade mustard via local pubs and butchers. Today it employs 50 people, has a turnover of £4m, sells its wide range of products through more than 1,200 speciality delicatessens, butchers and farm shops across the UK, and is run by William’s son, Guy. It produces up to 10,000 jars a day, using the original methods and recipes, and boasts a range of 50-plus different chutneys, pickles, relishes, jellies and mustards. And that’s just the way Guy intends to keep it.

“Twenty years ago I don’t think I really saw a big future in it,” Tullberg says. “I just thought it kept dad busy. But over time the UK has become a lot more conscious of good food and we’ve capitalised on that. It makes me laugh when I see all these new, young food businesses talking up being ‘innocent’. We’ve been innocent since 1970.”  

Twelve years ago, the business decided to stop using a wholesale distributor to shift products to the nation’s farm shops and butchers and to do the distribution itself. “It set our sales back six months,” Tullberg says, “meant we were processing 200 invoices a week instead of ten, meant we had to employ a lot more people to handle all the enquires and keep on top of it, but we haven’t looked back.” Tullberg says that while wholesale distributors sell hundreds of different products, the change has meant that Tracklements now concentrates on itself.

“We’re not looking to get Tracklements into the huge multiples,” Tullberg says. “I actually think they are a graveyard for products. And also, I have a 20 per cent rule. I don’t let any retailer take more than 20 per cent and the multiples would.”

Tullberg says his strict approach means the company retains the power and remains in control of its own destiny. But it does not indicate a lack of ambition. “I’d say we’re gently ambitious. But if anything, the market is moving towards us, rather than us chasing after the market, so I’m confident. And of course I’m confident in the products.”

Another innovation Tullberg says makes a difference is using jars that stack. “In the UK supermarkets, sauces are put onto the shelves on trays so it’s not important to be able to stack the jars. But in France they worked out if you remove the trays, they can fit more products on the shelves, so insist the glass jars stack. So we source French jars that stack and supply the 1,200-plus specialist retailers that way, meaning they too can increase the number of products on their shelves.”

As for the name of the business, Tullberg’s great grandmother used to sit at the end of the table on a typical Sunday lunch and ask other family members to ‘pass the tracklements’.

This is an extract from Secrets of My Success, by Jamie X Oliver. Available at all good book shops and online.

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