Producer of the Month: Tony Stoats, Founder, Stoats Porridge Bars
Tony Stoats is in the Guinness Book of Records for making the world's largest bowl of porridge. Oats isn't just within his name they are the core ingredients of everything he does. In 2005, Tony set up his first Stoats Porridge Bar, which has led to the world's first chain of mobile porridge takeaways which travel around farmers' markets and festivals dispensing steaming pots of British goodness. Alongside porridge, Stoats also make oatcakes and chunky porridge oat bars using the best Scottish oats.
- Why do you do what you do?
The idea for Stoats came to me in 2004 when I was working in sales and doing lots of driving. There really was nowhere I could just get a quick bowl of porridge on the road. Porridge is the best breakfast you can have, yet it just wasn't accessible or available in a convenient format. Initially the idea was to set up a permanent hot porridge bar in a city. But we started off by doing festivals and realised that mobile porridge bars were far more effective, lucrative and fun. We loved selling porridge at festivals, we still do, and that is where our reputation really grew. When we started making porridge we took great care sourcing the finest Scottish oats and we worked on bringing different blends of oats together to give the porridge contrasting textures…smooth and fluffy yet firm and textured. We have worked hard to expand our range and now have over 30 different oat based products.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
Our growth as a company. We now supply over 1,000 retailers in the UK.
- What is your most memorable moment?
We are really proud of our trailers. The exteriors are lined with quilted stainless steel, so they look really funky and eye-catching. However, one morning I was driving in rush hour traffic in Edinburgh when I managed to tip the trailer over. There was hot porridge all over the road and whilst the trailer was still eye-catching it was a little less funky.
- If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food?
Get rid of hot food VAT. All of our fresh produce does not have VAT incurred on it but our hot porridge does and we loose 20% before we have even sold anything.
- What is your favourite food and why?
Honestly, bananas and porridge because it puts me in a good mood.
- What are your predictions for the future of British food?
I think the future of British food is looking good. I know many customers who now use British produced rapeseed oil rather than olive oil, for example. My co-founder, Bob got himself a van and started travelling around the country delivering Stoats bars into deli's, food halls and farm shops - the kind of places that understand their customers. We found people wanted to avoid refined processed ingredients and they like to eat food where they recognise and know the origins of all of the ingredients on the label. Most importantly, customers want food that tastes amazing and part of that enjoyment is in the knowledge that what you are eating is fresh and British.
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
Sown here. Grown here. Eat British Oats.
- Best budget tip?
- What's on the menu this evening?
Ballencrief Sausages, Haggis from Rievers and vegetables from Fantasy Veg. All bought on Saturday from our co-producers at Edinburgh Farmers' Market.
- How can people get hold of your produce?
People can order online or find a list of retailers on our website - www.stoatsporridgebar s.co.uk