Monday, 27 October 2014


ONE of the most poignant moments in an episode of Dragons' Den earlier this year featured John and Claire Brumby of Grimsby-based Scrubbys Crisps.

Just as dragon Peter Jones looked poised to make an investment, he had an abrupt change of mind.

With an insensitivity bordering on cruelty, he squeezed as much as emotion as he could out of the couple's distress. "You've got a dream, but you're broke," he declared.

John 's dismay was all too apparent, but it was nothing to that of his wife who had to choke back tears as she confessed that this was, indeed, the case

It was a tough moment, but as Claire admitted: "That's reality TV - we knew the risk we were taking."

The couple lefty empty-handed, after 10 hours at the studio plus one hour and 52 minutes in the dragons' glare - of which just 11 minutes was screened.

Speaking last week at a conference and exhibition  organised by  Grimsby Business Hive, Claire confided: "We took an emotional battering - and it was followed by a horrendous two months."

The episode featuring the Brumbys was filmed in April this year and screened in July.

It looked as if the business might  go under . . but, after the darkest hour comes the dawn.

Claire Brumby - she and husband John bounced back

In August, the couple  received the lifeline, they had been seeking - an order to supply 281 branches of Waitrose whose food team were impressed that Scrubbys crisps were  lower-fat than those of competitors, yet also remained full of flavour.

Since then things have got better and better for the Brumbys - especially as they now have crucial financial backing from an investment  fund that specialises in supporting new snack food businesses.

Other retailers such as Lincoln Co-op and even the prestigious Harrod's of Knightsbridge have opened their doors to Scrubbys - prospects have never looked brighter.

During the TV show, another dragon, Duncan Ballantyne, expressed interested in Scrubbys' crisps, and, following their appearance, the couple are  hoping he might yet place a contract with them to supply his chain of gyms.

Earlier in her presentation, Claire revealed that the beginning of the journey for  the Brumbys came with a nine-month spell at Beverley market where they initially  sold vegetable boxes - John comes from a  farming background.

After sounding out the opinions of customers and checking  on what was selling well for fellow- stallholders, they decided to spread their wings.

"The market for healthy snacks was growing, and we were sure there was a gap we could fill," continued Claire."The challenge was to make them low fat, yet retain the taste."

They experimented with various cooking processes including baking and de-hydrating, before settling on vacuum-frying which involves frying at low temperature, then de-oiling.

The name Scrubbys, incidentally, is an amalagamation of scrub (the vegetables are scrubbed) and the last two letters of the couple' surname.

Once they were confident enough of their product, the Brumbys hit the road with their three  children in tow - and a particular maxim at the forefront of their minds : "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!"

"We attended every festival and fair you can think of,"continued Claire. "The kids wore T-shirts publicising the brand. We dragged them here there and everywhere."

Publicity was also crucial. "With no money, we managed to make quite  a lot of noise.

"Through a guerilla marketing approach, we got mentions in the Daily Mail and the influential trade magazine, The Grocer."

But as well as being technically challenging and hugely time-consuming, launching a new brand of crisps is
phenomenally expensive.

Although there was welcome seed funding from organisations such as Grimsby-based e-factor, which does all it can to encourage entrepreneurs, raising capital from other sources was, until recently, problematic.

"It was very difficult, "says Claire. "We had no track record in  food manufacturing and our brand was not yet established."

There were many times when the Brumbys thought their fledgeling business might not survive. and Claire had to take another job to pay the bills.

But they persevered, inspired partly by the famous Churchill saying: "When youre going through hell - keep going!"

What of the future? Every days there are new challenges - but also new opportunities. Scrubbys is definitely on the up.

The Brumbys can see a time not too far off when their millionth bag of crisps comes off the production line.

"We can't wait for the day," chuckled Claire. "I shall enjoy sending it off to Peter Jones!"

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