An interview with Robert & Laura Strathern
by Chris McNeill, The Delicatessen Magazine
So, Robert and Laura, what made you decide to start making crisps at the beginning?

Our families have been farming in East Anglia for three generations. It seemed natural to us to make a consumer product from one of our crops; potatoes. In 2006 we decided to start making hand cooked crisps. In the beginning, we out-sourced our crisp production and then in 2011 we brought production to the farm so we could better control quality. We also started making vegetable crisps in 2013.

What were your expectations to start with?

We knew it would not be easy that’s for sure – and we were proved right! We wanted to make the best crisps possible from our potatoes using locally sourced flavours. We now work with our good friends at Aspall Cyder, Wicks Farm Manor, Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses and Adnams Brewery to make great tasting crisps with specially developed natural flavours which have provenance without using artificial additives.

We heard from your staff that you are both incredibly hard working, what does a normal day consist of for you both?

Doest’t everyone in farming work hard? We’re used to it – getting up early and working long days sometimes seven days a week. Fortunately, we enjoy what we’re doing. We typically start at 6am and work 12 hours a day and longer during harvest. The weather plays such an important part of our lives that we have to take every opportunity to make sure the crops and equipment are being well looked after. This year this has been particularly difficult given the amount of rain we’ve had in short periods followed by dry spells. This makes growing potatoes quite a challenge – being British, naturally we never moan about the weather!

Being that you work together all day, do you still discuss business at home?

Yes we do and this is unavoidable, but given that we have two young children of five and seven, we make every effort to switch-off whenever we possibly can.

We heard about your impressive haul of 5 Great Taste awards, including being the only crisp company to get a two star award – how did you celebrate your impressive win?

We are particularly proud of winning these awards as it is testimony to the hard work of our development and production teams who are constantly finding new and exciting ways of making our crisps taste better. We have not celebrated our award wins yet, but we do plan to do so at the next Fairfields staff BBQ – once the harvest is in.

We particularly liked the taste of your Essex Honey and Black Pepper Parsnip crisps, have you got any other vegetable crisps or healthy alternatives on the way?

Thank you. This product is made using locally sourced honey and we’re particularly happy with its delicate taste and light, crunchy texture. We launch a new healthy product range in September called ‘Lentil Lites’. They’re really tasty and healthy too with less than 99 calories per 20g bag.

If you could go back in time and tell yourselves a piece of advice before you started, what would it be?

That’s an interesting question! Our advice to anyone starting a new business would be to make sure you understand your market really well and when it gets tough – as it probably will – just keep going, be flexible and never stop believing in what you’re doing.

Where do you see the brand going in the future?

We’re currently exporting to over 20 countries so given BREXIT and the impact on exchange rates, we see good opportunities for further growth in overseas markets where there is an appetite for quality British products. We also plan to expand our product range and production capacity.