Starting as a small business in their kitchen, Jeavons Toffee is now an award-winning and only vegan toffee manufacturer in the UK.
Discover how Locate East Sussex was able to assist Corin and Lesley Jeavons in expanding their business into a factory in Newhaven Enterprise Zone, and being able to stock their creations in hundreds of independent outlets nationwide.
When we had a look (into Newhaven), we found out it was significantly more affordable and just the right space we needed!Lesley JeavonsCo-founder, Jeavons Toffee
Growing up in Buckinghamshire, not many teenage boys spent their time making sweets, but Corin Jeavons was one of them. Rediscovering his mum’s recipe books on a visit to his parents’ home around six years ago, he decided to take a crack at the old recipes again as an adult, except this time adapting them to fit into his vegan lifestyle.
Trying to recreate the taste of home but without using any dairy is a tough task, and what started as a pastime became a mission to create the perfect toffee, and the beginning of something special. ‘We invited some friends over to try them out and they were shocked’ Lesley, Corin's partner in both business and life, said excitedly, ‘If they hadn’t known where we stood on using animal products, they would have thought they were tricked into eating traditional toffee!’
As soon as they started exploring and creating these new recipes, they resulted in entire product lines of delicious treats. Many Jeavons creations are not aiming to ‘veganise’ high street brands, but rather aim to create new twists from their own chocolate and toffee factory of ideas.
‘Our brand is grown organically and started with genuine likes (from social media) and genuine customer,’ Corin explained, ‘Our products are every day and approachable for people who are not even vegan.’
Adapting and refining their process, Corin and Lesley changed from being freelance fashion photographer and fitness instructor respectively, into professional chocolatiers. With hard work, education, and determination from their Brighton kitchen, their reputation grew as did the quality of their product. ‘Going from a kitchen into a factory is a big step! We had to learn a lot very quickly. Corin is the creative, and I am the organiser, I feel that we complement each other,’ Lesley said.
Made in smaller batches than other major chocolate makers, Jeavons Toffee has ensured a consistent taste, invention, and consistency which does not compromise Jeavons’ vegan ethos, with their materials aiming to be sustainably sourced, and ensure fair profit to cocoa farmers. ‘When we first came to the factory, we thought if we were going to scale up it wouldn’t work as well as small-batch,’ Lesley said, ‘but we are chuffed that we were able to increase production without impact on the quality, and I feel we have improved as creators.’
Named after their affection for their cat Amelie, Jeavons' signature chocolate 'the Smootch', a soft toffee wrapped in dairy-free chocolate, was an immediate hit. With the outspring of support from the community, Jeavons Toffee gained the confidence to become a business, with the strength to overcome even the most unexpected hurdles of being an independent manufacturer.
‘When we started,’ Lesley said, ‘we advertised as dairy-free as we did not want to alienate potential customers, but now the market is more accepting of vegan products and we can see encouraging growth.’
When we asked Corin about the ethos behind their packaging, he said: ‘We use classical chocolate designs both in the packaging and the chocolate, because we’re not trying to recreate other manufacturers’ chocolates, but rather capture childlike feelings we had as kids. Some of the chocolates that we sell have been from the result of experimenting with new ideas, and simply asking 'why not?'’.
As Jeavons Toffee’s production has solidified and progressed, its growing offer has proven to be incredibly popular regardless of naysayers, and has gained traction both online and across hundreds of small and independent businesses across the country.
Going online with their product, they did not expect the high demand for great vegan toffee, which resulted in them constantly running out of stock from their home in Brighton. However, as more orders were starting to come in and demand grew from the many unique and independent retailers that sell its products, they had outgrown their modest kitchen, and they knew something had to be done. Not only requiring space to expand their business, but they also needed new, but traditional equipment, including their toffee cauldron, which would enable them to boil sugars, as well as a cold table for easier pouring and hand cutting.
‘There was absolutely nothing in Brighton that matched our needs,’ Lesley exclaimed, ‘and we heard about potential space in Newhaven Enterprise Zone. When we had a look further, we found out it was significantly more affordable and just the right space we needed!’
Jeavons Toffee contacted Locate East Sussex to assist them in finding a place to move into and create its new factory and attract investment to expand the business. Chris Thomas, business manager, was able to not only help them acquire the funding necessary from the East Sussex Invest programme, but was able to help the small business with expert advice and guidance to allow Jeavons to reach its potential quicker.
‘When we asked Chris for his advice,’ Lesley said, ‘he made sure to not make us feel foolish. He was able to explain a lot of processes that we didn’t consider, and I feel Corin and I learned a lot.’
‘We are still learning every day,’ Corin added, ‘and with Chris’ help, we have been able to push further than we ever thought of. And we still keep in touch!’
Recently winning the VegFest UK awards for Best Vegan Snacks and Sweets, orders have continued to increase over 2020, and Corin and Lesley are investigating new ways in which Jeavons Toffee can expand its production once again and find new and exciting stockists.
‘There is still a lot more to do,’ Lesley admits, ‘but we are excited that our products are becoming more well known. Customers deserve the best quality out there, and we’ve got the best fans in the world.’
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