Producer of the Month: Harriet Hastings, Founder and Managing Director of Biscuiteers
Imagine going home after a vile day and finding a delicious Biscuiteers gingerbread man clutching some iced flowers, sent to you in the post by a dear friend. This thoughtful gift is almost as inspiring as Biscuiteers’ founder, Harriet Hastings.
Harriet and her husband Stevie Congdon are wonderfully entertaining, fun and charismatic people. They are also phenomenally professional and innovative when it comes to British food. Since 1990 Stevie has run Lettice (www.letticeparty.com) a dynamic catering, party design and event management company, named after his dog. Five years ago, Harriet, a co-director of Lettice and mother of four, began thinking about starting up her own business. She wanted to launch her own online retail company and realised that there was an opportunity in the food gift sector. She came up with the concept of making a number of different collections of beautiful themed iced biscuits to send to friends, colleagues and family as gifts.
Having used the Lettice kitchens to taste recipes and design biscuits, Harriet was able to move into her own bakery in November 2007. Biscuiteers launched online in September 2007 with the mission statement ‘why send flowers when you can send biscuits instead?’
Although Harriet began her career in publishing it was her subsequent move into PR and running a consumer brands division for ten years that has benefited her the most in the creation and running of Biscuiteers. She readily admits that a concentrated focus on PR and marketing is the most crucial thing any British food producer can do to build up their company. In 2010 she published her first book The Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits. The second edition of the book will be out in October.
- Why do you do what you do?
I wanted to have a go at starting my own business and decided that there was a real gap in the market for a gift food company that offered a complete gifting service.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
I am proud that we have managed to create a successful business based on old fashioned artisan techniques that uses modern technology to find a growing market.
What is your most memorable moment?
There have been many but becoming totally overwhelmed by demand for Royal Wedding biscuits and interest from the media in our Royal Wedding production was pretty extraordinary.
- If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food?
I think it's largely about educating the consumer. The supermarkets are always going to have a large role to play in changing purchasing habits so they may well be the key.
- What is your favourite food and why?
I love fish and have strange weakness for hummus. I think it must be the garlic…
- What are your predictions for the future of British food?
There seems to be an encouraging resurgence of interest in the way food is produced and made. There are also some fantastic new British producers in all areas, but ultimately it's about changing perceptions of the mass market which is a tall order.
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
Buy better, Buy British.
- Best budget tip?
Focus on the quality of what you are doing and remain innovative and flexible to find new markets.
- What's on the menu this evening?
British steak and home-grown salad.
- How can people get hold of your produce?
Online at www.biscuiteers.com and at a number of retailers including Selfridges, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason.