A once stale category known for nostalgic branding and pocket money pickings, Ed Williams and Jamie Laing founded Candy Kittens in 2012 to bring a light-hearted brand to the confectionary industry. Building an online community before a product had even been established, they proved that there was a demand for a shameless treat with a modern twist. Using iZettle from the very beginning of their venture, tech has played a key part in building their retail presence. Now fine tuning their eco-focus, we spoke to Ed about how Candy Kittens are working hard to cheer up a dreary Britain one treat at a time:
Tell us about how the brand started? What was the inspiration behind it?
We launched in 2012 because we were frustrated at the industry. There were no exciting brands in confectionary, only chocolate. Everything was covered in cartoons, had boring ingredients and were mainly targeted at children. We are gluten-free, use natural fruit juice and we went 100% vegan one year ago.
Candy Kittens was one of the first pop-ups to launch with Appear Here, can you tell us why decided to start out with your own stores?
At the beginning, all we had was a Twitter account where we built an engaged community who were made up of a really tight-knit group of customers. After launching the website, we wanted to infiltrate the offline world to look for face-to-face connections where people could taste, touch and feel the products and we could get their feedback. The first store opened during the London Olympics so the city was buzzing. We chose Chelsea because of co-founder Jamie Laing’s connection with Made in Chelsea. Needless to say, we generated a lot of press.
What sums up the Candy Kittens experience?
Fun and bringing personality to an otherwise boring category. It’s a treat. The news can be pretty depressing so we want to cheer people up.
Tell us about the Candy Van.
In 2013 we found a vintage ice cream van to use for pop-ups around London. We sold sweets and also gave out freebies in a ‘random acts of kindness’ style stunt. We could turn up and be ready in minutes. Really it was a form of guerilla marketing; it was eye-catching and gained a lot of attention. Since then we’ve set up at festivals, hosted DJ sets… Now we use an electric van, which supports our new eco message nicely. It’s out and about most days for deliveries and events, such as Taste of London. The van works really well in the summer when the streets are busy and unlike chocolate (sales fall by 80% during hotter months) we are not seasonal, so it’s perfect.
Can you share your top tip for first-time retailers?
Don’t overcomplicate things - the best stores in the world do simple things but do it well. Concentrate on high-quality service. Netflix, Amazon Prime and ASOS are all about convenience and high-level service.
You were also one of the first brands to use iZettle in the UK? What appealed to you about their service?
The tech meant we could punch above our weight and offer the same service as a big store. The back-end software is flawless and it’s so easy to train up new staff. As a modern confectionery company, iZettle made us seem current and forward thinking, far removed from penny sweets…
As your brand has grown, how are you now using their services across your different retail touchpoints?
It was perfect for our mobile Candy Van and then we incorporated iZettle into our permanent stores too. Wherever you’re set up, the system always links back to the office so you can keep tabs on sales and massively reduce admin.
What advice would you give other businesses who are thinking of trying it out?
Go for it. It’s a no brainer. When I look back, you needed a phone line and always ran into big fees and ongoing transaction rates. It was endless paperwork. Now, brands can invest in the experience and overall aesthetic rather than something boring like processing transactions. It’s the future.
You now sell in 15 different countries. What’s the main difference?
It’s not about the customers but how the businesses work internally. Globalisation and social media mean people are now interested in similar things across the world. Working with big retailers in the US is a whole different ball game - the scale is mindblowing. Australia is next.
What have been some of your favourite moments from Candy Kitten's journey?
Opening a pop-up was really fun. By 8am we had people queuing around the corner - we never imagined that. The bigger retail launches have been really exciting too, such as Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
What have you got planned for the future?
We are developing new products and launching new flavours later this summer. Going hand-in-hand with our vegan stance, next up is tackling the plastic problem. We have some alternative packaging up our sleeves, which we will hopefully be revealing in six months. The environment is a priority for us right now.