ENTREPRENEURS from across the county gathered together on Wednesday evening in search of inspiration from some of Gloucestershire’s most successful business leaders of the food and drink industry.
Hosted by Gloucestershire’s Growth Hub, the EU-funded business support centre based at the university’s Oxstalls campus, the free information and networking event explored how the demands of running a company have changed and where opportunities for growth now lie.
The evening was led by management consultant Paul Drabble from Rodborough who spent decades working for the confectionary and drinks giants Coca-Cola, Cadbury Schweppes and Ferrero UK, among others, and now runs Creating Business Growth (CBG) Ltd.
Having been instrumental in helping these companies both weather change and grow, Paul now imparts his expertise to local businesses thanks to the Growth Hub which offers training and free advice to all SMEs (small medium enterprises).
“We have 54,000 people employed in the food and drink sector in Gloucestershire and the Growth Hub is here to help them thrive,” he began.
As Paul explained to attendees, the change in this industry over the past couple of decades has been huge.
“Who’d have thought 25 years ago that it would be coffee, budget hotels and leisure centres which would see such huge growth, for example?” he asked.
Identifying these new, emerging markets is key to the success of any business, Paul advised.
“Innovation is key for businesses to find their point of difference and to thrive. Customer data preference is one way of accessing this insight so to meet customers’ needs in a better way than competitors.”
Paul’s case in point was the success of soft drinks company Fever Tree winning over a lion’s share of the tonic water market from Schweppes.
“They saw an opportunity to create a premium tonic water brand to complement the growing popularity of gin,” he explained.
Moreover, says Paul, Fever Tree took note of how customers are increasingly interested in the ethical, emotional and social connection to the products they consume.
Such information inspired the company to currently donate 10p per bottle sold to the Malaria No More UK charity.
Also imparting his advice was guest speaker Simon Ashburner, co-founder of Pulsin, the plant-based, protein snack company based in Quedgeley.
Simon and his colleagues have seen great success thanks to the increasing consumer trend for ‘superfoods’.
“We didn’t predict there would be a healthy snacking revolution but we have benefitted from being in the right place at the right time,” he said.
Liz Godsell of Godsells Cheese, which is based on a farm in Leonard Stanley, is part of Growth Hub’s ‘business friend’ coaching scheme.
“It has enabled us to look at things not from the point of view of being farmers but as retailers,” she says.
“The hub is amazing to small businesses like us because it gives us resources that we would not otherwise have access to.”
Wednesday evening was valuable for Liz in realising the need to take time out from the daily grind to gain perspective on the business, she said.
“Sometimes it’s inevitable that you find yourself working so hard with the everyday that you forget to take a break and gain a wider perspective,” she added.
The Growth Hub offers entrepreneurs free help for the success of their businesses. See thegrowthhub.biz for more information.
PAUL DRABBLES’S TOP TIPS TO BUSINESSES:
- Build your brand both on and off-line: The average person checks their smartphone 28 times a day. 60% of Instagram users follow food and drink venues and 60% of those individuals avoid venues with a weak Instagram presence.
- What moral compass?: 15% of customers are interested in the integrity of the products they buy and this is set to rise.
- Be eco-friendly: 75% of consumers says environmental packaging affects their decision-making. Now Waitrose’s Oxford store is trialling a plastic-free, refill scheme.
- The emotional connection: 80% of online purchases take place after review feedback has been sought.
- Collect data to be creative: Businesses using data collected from their customers’ preferences are growing twice as fast as their competitors.
WHAT IS THE GROWTH HUB?
“The Gloucester Hub is one of 37 located in each of the country’s counties,” says manager Ross Dukes. “We are here to share our knowledge and so far have helped 3,000 local businesses grow and prosper.”
“Our self-styled ‘business friends have no agenda, no sales or revenue target. We offer a completely free service to SMEs (small medium enterprises with under £45m turnover and less than 250 employees).”