Startup Watch

Retro reboot: British confectionery brand Champion & Reeves to expand after crowdfunding

Startup Champion & Reeves inspired by taste and packaging of classic UK brand Callard & Bowser

Luxury nougat startup Champion & Reeves has adopted the style of discontinued classic British brand Callard & Bowser and eyes domestic and export success after raising £156,540 ($204,000) via crowdfunding.

The company – established in October 2015 by a pair working in the gaming industry - developed three confectionery lines at a factory in Shrewsbury based on classics by Callard & Bowser.

Resurrecting a classic

Callard & Bowser was a Scottish confectionery firm founded in 1779. American corporation Kraft Foods later acquired the company and discontinued the brand in the early 2000s.

Puzzle entrepreneurs

Andrew Reeves is founder of puzzle business Sonic Games. He appeared on Dragon’s Den, the UK equivalent of Shark Tank, and turned down equity offers for his gaming firm. The entrepreneur’s puzzle business is based around Egyptian goddess Isis and the Iraq and the Syria-based group of the same name has impacted business. This led Reeves to explore new ventures, but he continues to run the gaming firm. Jacqueline Champion, his partner, cofounder and managing director of Champion & Reeves, also serves as director of Sonic Games.

Callard & Bowser-Suchard Inc. is today a New York-based subsidiary of Mars-Wrigley. It produces Altoids, a brand created by the original Scottish firm.

Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Andrew Reeves, cofounder and production and development director of Champion & Reeves, said he sought to recreate the confectionery he loved as a child.

"Callard & Bowser don’t exist anymore, but the products they made were amazing. We thought it would be good if we could bring back a commercial, artisan British manufacturing company that's focused on quality and tasty confectionery,” he said.

Reeves and cofounder Jacqueline Champion – managing director of the company - registered available UK company name Callard & Bowser Ltd, but decided to do business as Champion & Reeves to avoid any trademark issues with Mars-Wrigley.

“We are not Callad & Bowser - we are Champion & Reeves, but we produce everything in the style that once was Callad & Bowser,” said Reeves.

Crowdfunding investment

Champion & Reeves secured £156,540 ($204,000) via crowdfunding last year in exchange for 14.83% equity in the company.

The startup exceeded its initial target of raising £125,000 ($163,000).

"We raised the money in eight days,“ said Reeves. “We could have raised more, but we were trying to raise up to the £150,000 ($196,000) threshold for SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) approval,” which allows tax benefits for investors.

Champion & Reeves has used the money to move to a new factory, while any excess funds will fuel international expansion.

Factory opened by Prince Andrew

Prince Andrew recently opened Champion & Reeves’ new factory in Shrewsbury, UK.

"This one is purpose-built for doing multiple products,” said Reeves, and includes chocolate panning capacity to serve private label customers.

“We believe we're the only commercial, artisan confectionery company that has chocolate panning facilities within a 250 mile radius of Shropshire. So if anyone wants chocolate hazelnuts panned or any other nut products we can do it,” said Reeves.

The cofounder added the company was open to producing small batches, for example, 100 kg of chocolate peanuts for smaller companies.

"I would expect within the next six months a number of small artisan companies will approach us to pan products in milk and dark chocolate,” said the cofounder.

UK listings and international expansion

Champion & Reeves’ main customer is UK specialist confectionery wholesaler The House of Sarunds, which distributes to high-end retailers such as Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and John Lewis.

Its products are also in Mid Counties Cooperative stores.

Reeves said Champion & Reeves is in advanced discussions with a major North American c-store chain and is in ongoing talks with coffee retailer Starbucks.

"We've just opened up new channels into Canada and we will then be looking into the US once we've established Canada.

"…We are looking at areas of the world where Callard & Bowser was prevalent - so the US and Australia are good examples of where their products were well known,” he said

Champion & Reeves will later look to expand in Asia, where it already has some distribution in Japan.

Natural ingredients

Champion & Reeves products are free from artificial flavors and preservatives as well as gluten, gelatin, shellac and palm oil.

It uses green tea and rosemary extract as preservatives and premium ingredients such as French orange blossom honey from Bordeaux, pistachios from Turkey, 60% cocoa organic chocolate, and uses locally-sourced butter and cream.

"There are limitations. The more natural and organic you are, the shelf life is reduced,” said Reeves.

The products have a shelf life of six to eight months.

But Reeeves said: "There's a definite trend towards quality and taste of produce - not just in confectionery, but in all produce. People are looking at what they are eating, the ingredients, artificial flavors and preservatives and GM."

[Photo credit (all photos): Champion & Reeves]

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