Chris and Pauline Howarth had seen a gap in the UK market for licensed confectionery gifts and having set up Bonbon Buddies, quickly signed quality licences and secured listings with the major multiples.
The firm twice won a place in The Sunday Times/Virgin Atlantic Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies. The business was primarily UK-focused for the first six years and then began to expand into other territories.
Initially this expansion was initially via distribution deals before the firm set up the first international office in France eight years ago.
Since then, the company has continued to grow and now has offices in Benelux, Poland and the Nordics as well. BBB’s size has also been boosted with a number of new acquisitions including TeePee Creative (from the administrators of Mr Lucky Bags) and Kschocolat.
Pauline expands: “We were lucky to have anticipated the demise of Woolworths and to have grown other retail routes prior to any impact from that too.”
The product portfolio for Bonbon Buddies’ vast range of licences covers most bases. The majority of products are licensed confectionery treats and gifting for Christmas Easter and everyday, featuring all categories of confectionery: chocolate, sugar, jelly, mallow and gum and using all elements of premium gifting i.e. 3D containers, ceramics, tins and fabrics.
Pauline explains: “All are designed, sourced or manufactured by BBB and marketed direct to retail pan European. Kshocolat will be managed in the same way. Only a small percentage of the BBB portfolio is distribution lines for other brand owner.”
A strong licensing team ensure both the licences signed and the products that hit the shelves are a success so much so, the firm can’t pinpoint its most successful brand in the portfolio so far.
Pauline continues: “Some of the big successes over the years have been Pokemon, Monopoly, Hello Kitty, Spongebob, High School Musical, Disney – the whole portfolio – Bratz, Dr Who and many more. Watch this space too as Twilight will definitely be on this list.
“We have a skilled licence team who have many years experience prospecting and selecting the ‘next big thing’. Our portfolio is always rich with top ten properties and we work closely with all the licensors to support them with their exciting new property launches.”
The firm uses this strategy to maintain long-term licences and also to capitalise on the next hot quick win opportunities.
Once these deals are in place, BBB again uses the team to ensure the end product is a hit. Pauline says the secret to success for a confectionery licence is: “Understanding the licence in question and who is the end user and then designing an appropriate confectionery gift that is totally synergistic to the licence and will captivate the target customer/consumer.”
The firm also ensures it adapts to the market and in our current health-conscious state, it addresses the concerns of child obesity and designs all its products to meet strict food guidelines with natural colours and flavours, portion control packs and healthy eating statements on pack.
So what’s next for BBB? Pauline concludes: “Further growth and Euro expansion and hopefully the occasional day off to rest.”