The end of the financial year is time for our annual review, and looking back it seemed like we
were in a bit of an experimental
mood this year…..
We trialled lots of new products, explored 10 different countries, went through many(!) iterations of our new packaging, opened an on-site shop and launched our first cooking courses at Spicery HQ.
We’re now up to 30 staff and over 150,000 customers on the mailing list so things have really grown over the last year or two. What seemed originally to be a huge echoey space is rapidly filling up so let us know if you spot any big empty warehouses near the centre of Bristol!
This was the year that our Spice Travels really took off (literally and metaphorically). We pay bonuses towards our staff researching and tasting fantastic food from around the world as that’s ultimately what guides our recipe development.
Alice made sausages in Thailand, Robyn ate Korean tacos in LA, Tung bought baguettes in Marseilles, Toby diced with chilli death in Peru, Gifty introduced the food of Ghana, Suze discovered incredible roast pork in Bali and I picked cardamon in Kerala - read all about it on our Spice Travels blog!
What to drink with our meals has been a regular question over the years, but working with Moor Beer on the menu of our Craft Beer & Food dinners (it’s thirsty work but someone has to do it) led to the realisation that Craft Beer works brilliantly with our recipes and has led to a joint product with Beer Hawk and hopefully much more to come.
We hosted our first cookery courses at Spicery HQ as our intrepid would-be Curry Legends watched chef Matt knock up 5 curries (with sides and chutneys) in front of their eyes in only 20 minutes. It was great fun so we’ll be hosting more over the next few months and look out for our first book - “How to be a Curry Legend” coming very soon together with 4 special Curry Legend blends to make everything in the book.
We’ve also had a few hiccups along the way this year with our new packaging but don’t be alarmed if each of your boxes seems to have been slightly different every month - we have now solved the colour contrast problem, the text is now readable(!) and the final results look great.
Certainly we’ve had some really positive
feedback about how bright and colourful everything looks now which is great to hear.
For about 3 years I’ve been promising a new website and after a few false starts you’ll all be very relieved to know that it’s actually happening. We’ve started with the subscription management pages and you’ll see the rest of the site updated gradually over the next few months.
Please feel free to get in touch with your observations and suggestions as we really value those. Thanks again for your interest over the last year and Happy Spicing - we’ve got a lot to look forward to!
(The Spicery founder and owner)
2015 - 2016
Hello fellow spicerers,
It's been a significant year for us at The Spicery as we celebrated our 10 year anniversary in September (to be totally honest, I couldn't actually remember the exact start date so just concluded it felt like at least 10 years...). It's amazing to think how quickly time has gone and that so many customers from my early days at that freezing cold market stall in Green Park, Bath are still with us!
Sales were up around 25%, we've moved past the 100,000 customer mark this year and (by using some only slightly dodgy maths ) we've sent out nearly 250,000 recipes this year meaning if they were all shared by 4 people that 1 million people sampled our food last year!
We've had the first marriage proposal (to our knowledge) made over a Spicery dinner (congratulations to the future Mr & Mrs Johnstone!), and it's given us all a huge amount of pride to see the incredible food you've been making with our spices and how much you've been enjoying it on our Wall of Fame (we even have a live feed set up with a big screen at Spicery HQ to stay up to date with what you've been making!).
2015 also saw the inaugural job swap week at The Spicery - I'd been threatening the idea for a couple of years and it was with some trepidation that everybody had to swap roles with a randomly selected colleague for the week without the whole business grinding to a halt. It actually ended up being a great success with a street-food party at the end and will be coming back bigger and better this year (maybe try to avoid ordering anything in early July... only joking, I'm sure it will be fine again!)
We made some more changes to the subscriptions with the aim of introducing lots more short-run options throughout the year. So far we've tried BBQ, World of Chilli, Flowers Herbs & Aromatics plus we've recently started creating new Spicery Kitchen Limited Editions that are only available for that particular month!
Thanks to your feedback we've also just launched the Spicery Highlights for Two box that's our pick of the best 2 main courses from that month's boxes for 2 people. We'll keep going through 2016 with lots more options so
you'll always have something new to try.
We tentatively opened the doors of Spicery HQ for a market day in December and were amazed when over 250 people visited us for food, shopping, make your own curry blend and a tour of the building. It was a great time for everyone and we're planning to do this on a monthly basis this year to keep an eye out for information!
Thanks for your support (particularly if you were there at the start 10 years ago!) and Happy Spicing from all of us for the year ahead!
(The Spicery founder and owner)
2014 - 2015
For only the second time, here’s our Annual Report of what turned out to be a very up and down sort of year:
We had some triumphs...
We outgrew our old workspace in Bath and moved in the summer to a new 12,000 sq ft premises in Bristol (with heating AND natural light!!) - a surprisingly unusual feature in British warehouses as it turns out!
Sales were up nearly 40% to around £1.4million and we officially became a Living Wage employer (one of only 1200 in the country) which means that all members of staff including temps, are guaranteed a premium to the national minimum wage.
New products this year included the Date Night subscription which proved to be a big hit. Each box has a 3 course meal from romantic spots around the world, and the Spicery Christmas dinner box was also a real highlight - maybe it was the fancy gold leaf on the saffron flavoured trifle that did it, or perhaps it was Josh’s special Christmas playlist.
We also launched our first Refugee Action Big Night In box with recipes from the refugees themselves who all came in and cooked with us. It was an amazing experience as we got to try home cooking from Iran, Sudan, Kurdistan, Cameroon and many other countries and certainly one we’d love to repeat in future.
I’m sure you’ll have noticed our new colourful branding which looks fantastic on our kits, and
look out for some more packaging innovations this year as we continue to improve and try and
make our products look as good as they taste.
..and we’ve had a few disasters!
We tried to launch a fancy new website in September but it turned out to be a total catastrophe. Despite many assurances it would be ready on time, the final version was so awful that we had to pull it down after a week and resort back to our old one.
We also had a lot of problems with our new boxes that ended up getting torn and crushed in the post so we’ve recently introduced a much stronger design and we’re also planning a different shaped large box so that ALL our orders can get delivered through the letterbox.
The World Kitchen boxes are due a bit of a rethink with perhaps a bit more of a round-the-world trip theme to them and we may test out more ‘express’ or midweek recipes this year. We’ll be releasing a greater range of limited edition recipe kits so your old favorites will appear more regularly and we’re also planning a bigger range for special events like barbecues and family meals.
The new and improved website (when it finally appears!) will allow you to log in and switch boxes, benefit from a cheaper recurring payment option for subscriptions plus link up recipes with your photos and feedback to make the Wall Of Fame more interactive and fun. We’ll also be making more videos (Youtube - Spicery tv?) and we’ll be Instagramming a lot more. Now that we have such a great new kitchen to cook in we’ll also be hosting regular events so look forward to welcoming more of you to visit and eat with us.
Thanks again for all your support over the last year and I hope you keep on enjoying spicing up your cooking with us!
(Spicery founder and owner)
2013 - 2014
April is the end of our financial year and the end of our busiest period, so it’s a natural point to reflect as well as look ahead. This year I thought I’d try and write a kind of annual report of what we’ve been up to and detail our future plans. Hopefully it won't read like those terrible round-robin cards at Christmas but here goes...
2013 was a big year for us - we were ticking over very nicely with steady month-on-month growth…..and then Christmas happened. Sales normally triple at that time of year, but this year everything seemed to explode and we were up over 6 times on previous months. Everybody here was pretty relieved to get to the Christmas break in one piece but we did at least manage to get all the orders out before the last posting date so hope yours got there in plenty of time for Christmas!
Being invited onto notonthehighstreet.comwas a big step this year. It seems like we hit a bit of a sweet spot by selling a great present at a decent price point (particularly for men as food presents seem very popular right now). We certainly picked up thousands of new customers who’d never heard of us before so welcome to all of you who found us through notonthehighstreet (in case you don’t know about it, it’s a great website for all kinds of unusual and unique gifts so we’d recommend you take a look!).
Significant milestones this year:
New staff this year include our resident spicemailer Suze, Adam who helps pack all the subscription boxes, Shabba who looks after our ingredients, Yee Ping from Malaysia who processes all your voucher redemptions, Josh who does all our tweeting and facebooking and Robyn who’s just joined us and will hopefully be making all our blends from now on.
We’re tantalisingly close to reaching the £1million turnover mark which seems like a major achievement after what feels like many, many years of struggling!
Last summer we launched new versions of our subscriptions - Discoverer and Favourites. At the moment the Discoverer subscriptions are clinging on to bestseller top spot, but it looks like the Friday Night Curry Favourites are due to take over very soon.
Between us we’ve been to China, India, Singapore, Hungary, America, Sicily, Trinidad, France, Spain & Yemen this year and you can read all about those trips on our Spice Travels blog, and even follow us on the new Spicery Travels twitter feed.
New plans for the year ahead:
Our packaging and website is overdue a revamp so we’ve started a big redesign which should be complete by the autumn. With your help we picked 5 words that sum up what we do and will provide a reference point for our new look. The words we picked were bright, warm, innovative, accessible and curious (as in interested and knowledgeable, not as in weird and unusual, obviously!). Hopefully from all that we’ll end up with something that everybody’s happy with but keep an eye out for some sneak previews over the next few months!
Lots of you have been posting photos of your creations on twitter and facebook which we love to see, so we’ve put a Wall of Fame page on our website where you can post photos (and see what we’ve been making as well).
We’re planning to make some changes to the monthly subscriptions in the next few months - lots of you mentioned how the current card vouchers could be much better so we’re planning to make a presentation pack with a specially made box you can use to store all your cards. We’re also thinking about ways for you to manage your own subscription (switching boxes and having more options each month), making the renewal process easier and giving a discounted direct debit option so you can save more when you renew.
We’re still crammed into 4 tiny workshops in Bath but hopefully will be in a fancy new 12000sq ft warehouse in Bristol at some point this summer. We were hoping to move to somewhere big enough to have a shop front where people could drop by and pick up some ingredients, but that's proved more complicated than expected so sadly this might have to wait for the next move! 2013 may have been our last year at the Bath Christmas Market which is a shame, but as it all happens during such a busy time it's become too difficult for our staff to ever make it to the stall. Hopefully we'll be able to find some other events to attend during quieter times of the year in 2014 so we won't spend all our time hidden away in the warehouse!
And finally, I recently visited a charity in Bristol called Refugee Action which provides practical support to refugees and asylum seekers. I’ve always been aware how much we’ve benefited as a business (and the country as a whole) from people who’ve settled here from overseas and have raised families, opened businesses and most importantly from our point of view, shared their food with us.
There is something special about the fact that for centuries Britain has offered people fleeing conflict and persecution a safe place where they’re protected by law and treated with humanity and respect, and that’s a tradition that must be worth continuing regardless of politics or the complexities of the asylum system. It seemed to me that they’re a charity who help some of the most vulnerable people in our society and it looks like they genuinely needed some help so that’s why we’re supporting them from now on.
Hope that all makes sense, thanks for all your support over the last year. Best wishes for the year ahead and I hope you continue to enjoy spicing up your cooking with us!