Over the last few years there has been a big increase in the different ways that red (or green) hot chilli peppers are working their way into our food. In the old days, our old friend the chilli was simply chopped up and added to a stir-fry, but nowadays we can find the chilli hiding in ice cream, in chocolate bars and hot chocolate drinks, as well as a huge range of relishes and jams.
A few weeks ago I met Lynn Duthie, who runs "everything CHILLI", at the Ayrshire Farmers market in Kilmarnock. After sampling a few of the sweet and spicy relishes, I was hooked. From the few flavours that I sampled, the Lime Shred was easily my favourite. In fact I've almost finished the jar that I bought a few weeks ago, the sweet and spicy relish is delicious with cheese on toast!
Here's Lynn's story.
How did you get started?
It wasn’t a conscious decision to start a small business! The very first batch of “chilli jam” I made was to give to a friend (who likes chillies as much as I do) as a gift a few years ago. From there, the more people that tasted it, the more people that wanted some. I bought a few nice food jars, made three or four varieties of spreads and took a stall at a small local craft market with another friend, and was surprised at how well my products sold.
After that I decided that I’d like to take it further because I enjoyed inventing unusual flavours and working on the marketing of the products, and liked the sense of achievement when new customers enjoyed the spreads.
I made sure that I was following production and sales regulations, found ingredient and packaging suppliers and booked places at craft market stalls and farmers markets, and things have grown organically from there. I still do absolutely everything myself, from ordering jars right through production, design, promotion and sales to book keeping.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
My background is in business and marketing, so I’d say do your research first to make sure that the market is there and that you can satisfy that demand in a way that fits your business model and at the same time you should be open to new opportunities that may require change. But just as important is to follow your gut instinct and be uncompromisingly true to yourself – do something that you get really excited about as that will keep you going through any tough times and make the wins all the more satisfying, and that also means that when you speak to customers your enthusiasm will rub off on them.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
I might have relinquished some responsibility to other people by then! I hope that I’m still innovating, still enjoying it and still letting my customers experience new flavour ideas. My seasonal editions and new products are great fun to invent, so I hope that I’ll still be ‘flavour inventor’ to the business in whatever form it may take in 5 years’ time.
If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?
Gerry, you ask really difficult questions! My favourite changes from month to month. I probably use Original Chilli the most because it’s great with cheese and lots of savoury dishes as it is, and it’s gorgeous used as a glaze for baked salmon too. I do love Lime Shred’s citrusy punch, and new seasonal editions always get me excited simply because they’re new inventions and I love taking them to a market and sharing them with my customers to see what they think of them.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
My last meal? What a horrible thought! The main dish would have to be something that I had never tried before – if I didn’t enjoy it then the disappointment would be short-lived, if I did enjoy it then I would go out happy. Maybe some strange exotic delicacy that I haven’t even heard of yet!
I do know that I’d make some everythingCHILLI cookies with the tea/coffee as a sweet treat afterwards though.
And the person to have it with ... Speedy Gonzales, the fastest mouse in all Mexico! He loves cheese, so there would be no arguments about whether to have a cheeseboard or not, and being from Mexico he would love chillies, and he’s a little cheery fellow, just what I’d need if I was facing my last meal! Plus he might join me in a little cheeky margarita cocktail.
If you like your relish with a kick then "everything CHILLI" have a huge range of flavour combinations to choose from. A little chilli can add an extra dimension to both sweet and savoury food. The current range of fruit and savoury spreads includes scrumptious and exclusive flavours that have a hint of warmth and, for the heat-seekers among you, there are also one or two that are rather hot, check out the website for a full list of flavours available.