Pecan hit the sweet spot

We spoke with Graham Kingston, Managing Director of Pecan Deluxe Candy Europe, to find out about business, Brexit and winning a business award.

What business does Pecan Deluxe do and what is your role in it?

My name’s Graham Kingston, I am the Managing Director of Pecan Deluxe Candy Europe. We are a bakery & confectionery manufacturer which has been operating since 1950. Our origins are in Dallas Texas where our founder Mr J.C Brigham set out making ice cream and the inclusions that went into it.

The inclusions business was so successful that in 1980 our second generation owner Bennie Brigham decided to concentrate solely on making the inclusions and subsequently invested in additional European production capacity here in Leeds.

Our 3rd generation owner Jay Brigham has since invested in our 3rd manufacturing site in Bangkok to service our growing Asia Pacific business and facilitated the ambitious expansion of the European business.

Today we make inclusions for some of the biggest global brands covering all sectors of the market, Dairy, Ice Cream, Desserts, Beverage, Quick Service Restaurants, Bakeries and Cereal companies.

Cookie Dough, Brownies, Sauces, chocolate shapes, fudges, nuts and seeds are all supplied across the globe from our sites in Dallas, Leeds and Bangkok.

My role is to create an environment which allows our employees to be the best that they can be and for our customers to work in partnership with us creating bespoke tailored ingredients solutions.

We are growing rapidly. We are still very much a family business which operates on family values. Every one of our employees buys into that as do our suppliers and customers by offering a personal touch.  

We are bespoke manufacturers, so we accept that we need to be flexible and supportive on MOQ’s and ingredients to allow our customers to tailor make their own unique finished products.

We recognise the individuality of our customer base and our consumers and we try and create a feeling that you would get walking into a bespoke tailors shop but making ingredients rather than a tailored suit.  Treated with absolute respect, everything tailored to perfection and you leave very happy with something that’s just for you. That so far seems to be a good philosophy and it seems to be one of the reasons why we’re growing and outperforming the market.

How has Pecan Deluxe committed to social responsibility in the past year?

Our employees and their families have all been touched by illness or cancer, one way or another so we have chosen to give something back to a support charity that is local to our employees and their families. We took the decision to support a lady called Jacqui Drake who is a terminal cancer patient and she has been at the receiving end of some very amazing care through the Leeds Cancer Centre Charity. Jacqui has given so much to children all around the Bradford and Leeds area, helping them to become more confident through dance and theatre. Jacqui is now putting all her efforts into raising a million pounds for the Leeds Cancer Centre Charity and we decided to help support her to do that.

We’ve actively supported a number of fundraising events such as running marathons and sponsorship in addition to offering a magical Pecan Deluxe Candy factory tour which includes a seven course Yorkshire taster meal and an afternoon designing your own ice cream.

Our most recent support includes sponsoring The Greatest Showman Ball at the Aspire Ballroom in Leeds at the end of March.

Does Pecan Deluxe have plans for further expansion and growth?

In terms of our growth, we are not trying purposefully to break records every year although we have and are doing so.

It’s important that we make sure we can provide the customer service that means we retain customers, sustain growth and win new customers. On that basis we will only commit to what we can deliver. 

We innovate and deliver innovation in a way which is needed for consumers. When people have confidence in your ability to deliver that innovation, it drives your growth. Having said that, the more business we generate the more we can give back to the employees, our shareholders the community and ultimately drive investment in the future needs of the business.

We have so many plans for further expansion and our owner Jay Brigham has given us his fullest support to make sure we stay very much at the leading edge of what we do.

How did it feel to receive a Chamber Business award for Customer Commitment?

We were  obviously delighted to be awarded the Chamber Business award for Customer Commitment. It helped to mandate our customer strategy. The feedback from our customers and getting recommendations and getting an e-mail that just says you’ve done a great job here means an immense amount to us as a business, but to win an award  and get the team together and enjoy themselves at an evening awards ceremony gives us all a boost.

About three years ago we made the decision to move out of what were very fragmented offices in the main body of the factory, into a specifically designed office complex. It has brought the team together and everybody works in hand with everybody else and has banter and it’s great fun.

We’re only as strong as our weakest link and I’m very pleased to say there are very few weak links here. We all look after each other. We’ve got a great team here, they work their socks off for the customers and for the business because we look after the employees. It has to start there because if you look after them they look after you. That’s how really we’ve created a mentality and a culture within the business that has been quite progressive and the more you are like that, the more it encourages that kind of behaviour. That’s something that I’m very proud has happened in the last three or four years and resulted in some good success as a business.

What are your thoughts on Brexit and its impact on the manufacturing industry? How is Pecan Deluxe preparing for it?

I see Brexit as the biggest challenge to manufacturing and export that this country has ever seen. Our business is 80 percent export into Europe, so we are particularly vulnerable to the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. It’s challenging now because of the uncertainty, but all we can do is our best.

We have to control the things that we can control and excel in the things we can excel in, so innovation and customer service are a huge part of that. We need to take precautions with our incoming raw materials and our products from a stock-holding perspective. Ultimately we have to take a juggernaut to the Brexit environment, because there is no point just waiting for things to happen.

We need to make sure our manufacturing is cost effective and we need to make sure that our customers feel confident in what we’re doing. Pecan Deluxe has contingency in our raw materials. We know that Brexit will have an impact, but as long as we are doing everything that’s within our power to do, then we will ride the storm.