Pub culture is also an integral part of British life, a market that Made for Drink (MFD) is directly targeting with its range of archetypal pub snacks.
The Reading-based producer is a firm believer in the power that food and drink have in bringing people together: those moments that involve real eye contact, laughter and easy conversations.
It was a concept that PepsiCo alum Dan Featherstone had seen work time and again during his many years in the wine and snacks sectors, and a lightbulb moment in 2016 resulted in Featherstone and his father hiring a local village hall over the weekend to hand make bar snacks.
MFD’s first customer was Heston Blumenthal’s The Crown at Bray, which allowed the producer to trial its Duck Fritons on its target market - to much success. Five years on and MFD is supplying some of the world’s leading food & drink establishments - including The Fat Duck Group, Rick Stein, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols and Partridges, among others - with bar snacks like crisps, chorizo thins, biltong (an air dried meat snack) and chicken salt fries.
With responsibility for the planet at the heart of its ethos, care is given in sourcing ingredients from like-minded suppliers - such as authentic Spanish chorizo from a small family producer in Galicia. However, to achieve its ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030, Featherstone likes to keep it local, with free-range Devonshire ducks from Creedy Carver, 100% Yorkshire potatoes, hand harvested Dorset sea salt and English truffles, one of the country’s lesser known luxury products.
Capitalising on collabs
In 2021, Made For Drink announced it had signed a five-year brand licensing deal with English Heritage to help champion the nation’s food producers through a line of potato crisps. Every pack sold helps the not-for-profit carry out vital conservation work at over 400 heritage sites.
The four-strong range was created in partnership with English Heritage and Yorkshire Crisps. Carbon neutral and plastic-free, the crisps are available in English Truffle, Dorset Sea Salt, Malt Vinegar & Sea Salt and Unseasoned Yorkshire, with the back of each pack telling a story of one of the ingredient producers.
The pride in all things British has also seen MFD teaming up with Baron Bigod to put a gastronomic spin on the humble Cheese & Onion crisp.
When MFD were tasked by English Heritage to put its spin on the time-honoured flavour, it was immediately clear the team would rip up the rulebook. Baron Bigod is a squidgy cheese made in the Brie-de-Meaux style, a small batch artisanal offering that uses milk from the Suffolk producer’s highly prized Montbeliarde herd.
According to Featherstone, Baron Bigod is a favourite among friends and family.
“Everyone in our snacking huddle adores this cheese’s deliciously distinct nutty rind and the fresh buttery yet earthy texture that comes complete with a discreet citrusy twang,” he said.
“When English Heritage challenged me to produce a cheese & onion crisp that celebrated England’s finest cheese wisdom, I knew precisely who to talk to.”
Iona Taylor, sales manager at Fen Farm Dairy, is also blown away with the resulting snacks.
“They are a savoury, gourmet delight that combines the creamy and indulgent flavours of the cheese with the crispy, flavourful notes of caramelised onion, resulting in a rich and irresistibly fragrant treat,” she said.
And from an English Heritage perspective, this addition to their snacking stable hits all the right notes, adding “an unmistakably gourmet twist to our nation’s favourite while shining a light on yet another of the island’s inspiring small food producers”.
The height of good taste
Another collab that is guaranteed to resonate with the drinking crowd is MFD’s partnership with Gentleman’s Relish, which today commands a cult following akin to Marmite. Also known as Patum Peperium (pepper paste), the savoury paste was created in 1828 by John Osborn, targeting ‘gentlemen of standing’ with its heady ‘unami’ blend of anchovies, herbs and spices.
“Together, we believe we have created the perfect crisp, which is packed full of flavour,” said a spokesperson from Elsenham Quality Foods, licenced manufacturer of Gentleman’s Relish.
“Prepare yourself for a snack adventure like no other, where flavour takes centre stage and every bite is a sensory revelation.”
Added Featherstone, “We’ve long craved creating an unapologetic crisp that packs a real punch so jumped at the chance to work with such a noble flavour that to this day, retains a devoted following within a number of the UK’s more discerning food aisles, delis and food halls.
“Putting aside the fact that Gentleman’s relish undoubtedly has one of the world’s most memorable straplines in UK foodiedom - ‘the height of good paste’ - Made for Drink has an ongoing responsibility to unearth hidden foodie gems and take them to a wider, food appreciative audience.
“A like-minded alliance between English Heritage, Gentleman’s Relish and Made for Drink makes perfect sense to all parties.”
Made For Drink is a trailblazer when it comes to taking responsibility for its sustainability goals, shooting to become carbon neutral.
Carbon neutral aims to keep carbon balanced by neither adding to carbon levels in the atmosphere nor taking away carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon negative (or climate positive), on the other hand, aims to remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than produced.
In 2022, MFD established the Exmoor Carbon Project, which manages and restores, in partnership with The Woodland Trust, tracks of ancient woodland on the North Devon coast to sequester carbon (holding more than 4m kg of carbon in the trees alone), increase local biodiversity and boost rural employment.
All CO2 emissions associated with Made For Drink’s science based targets (Scopes 1, 2 & 3) are offset by purchasing Carbon Credits from the Project.
The Project has been made a UNESCO Biosphere Business Partner and is primarily funded through the sale of its Natural Capital (Carbon Sequestration & Biodiversity Enhancement) and Tourism.
Beyond that, MDF’s production in the UK (which accounts for 13% of its total emissions) is 100% powered from renewable energy, while 50% of its deliveries are done through a carbon neutral network.
MFD’s Baron Bigod Cheese & Onion and Gentleman’s Relish is rolling out in retail, farm shops and delis across the UK, also available online, for an RRP of £1.35 (40g) to £3.00 (71g).