“People only visit the big grocery stores 1.2 times a week,” he says. “Why on earth would I want to stock my crisps there when you’d only see them 1.2 times a week?
“I’d rather sell to the village shop where you buy your daily newspaper; the café where you pick up your morning cup of coffee; the sandwich bar where you buy your lunch and the pub you head to for a pint in the evening.
“Those small, independent businesses are passionate about what they sell. I want to give them something unique to put on their shelves.
“The big supermarkets change their buyers so often. It’s impossible to have a relationship with them.”
Albone set up Pipers Crisps just before his 40th birthday. “The future of the farming industry looked bleak. There was more behind me than in front of me. I suppose I had a minor mid-life crisis.”
Instead of buying a flashy sports car, he set up his own business, investing £450,000 and starting out with just 24 boxes of crisps.
“My friend owns a micro brewery and four pubs. So I took the crisps to his pubs and sold him 20 boxes. On my way home, I drove past a farm shop and sold them the other four boxes. And that’s how it started. You pick up customers one at a time. Every weekend, without fail, I was at a farmers’ market, a food festival or a trade fair selling my wares.”
Albone’s determined approach paid off. Today, the company pulls in sales of £1.3m.
Pipers Crisps are hand cooked in sunflower oil and flavoured with local ingredients. “We buy chillies from Filippo Genovese in Bedfordshire, we source cider brandy from Julian Temperley in Somerset and our cheese is turned by the Alvis family in The Mendip Hills,” says Albone.
“I’m happy to bang the drum for our local suppliers. It sets us apart from the other crisp producers.”
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