Two Rotherham-based entrepreneurs are hoping to snaffle up a piece of the lucrative pub snacks market after successfully reinventing the humble pork scratching.
John Walker and David Mace launched their pub snacks business, Beerpig, back in November 2019. Despite losing their entire customer base due to the pandemic just four months into their business journey, today, Beerpig’s tasty pork scratchings, which are sold warm directly from the bar, can be found in over 250 pubs and clubs across the UK.
Insurance broker John hit on the idea of producing warm pork scratchings when he decided to conduct an experiment at home. To his surprise, John discovered that the process of heating the pork scratchings improved their flavour, and after sharing his discovery with friends, the Wickersley-based entrepreneur decided to explore building a business around selling warm pork scratchings to the pubs industry.
Central to Beerpig’s growth plans was the creation of a custom-built warming cabinet, enabling pubs to sell heated pork scratchings. At the same time, John embarked upon a quest to design and create the perfect pork crackling which would be suitable for warming, meet the necessary shelf life and comply with all food safety standards. Armed with a few samples of Beerpig Crackling and some business cards, John and David ventured out to several local pubs and secured their first orders.
With each heating unit requiring significant investment, John knew that the key to the success of the business would be securing repeat orders. He also recognised that by serving the pork scratchings in washable, porcelain dishes, it would also help to reduce single-use plastics or cardboard.
However, John and David also knew that to build and grow the business, they would need additional help and called upon Launchpad, a free business support programme aimed at helping new entrepreneurs and SMEs within South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw to realise their potential.
Working with experienced business adviser Darren McDool, John and David realised it was vital to protect the Beerpig name and successfully secured a trademark to protect their unique brand. Together they developed a short term and a long-term business plan setting out the company’s ambitious growth plans over the next six months and over the next three years – the shorter term six month targets they successfully achieved within just six weeks of trading. With Darren’s help, Beerpig relocated from John’s home office to Rotherham’s Fusion Business Centre within their first month.
During this time, John and David also took part in a number of the free workshops provided by Launchpad, giving them the confidence to build and develop their own website from scratch, further protect their brand, as well as learning how to market their products more effectively.
Poised to enjoy a significant period of expansion and growth, disaster struck just four months into Beerpig’s business journey, when the Covid-19 pandemic prevented the pubs industry from opening. Overnight, the company lost its entire customer base and with Beerpig HQ full of pork scratchings, John and David realised they needed to diversify their business model. They quickly redeveloped their plans and began to sell stock online via their website and Amazon, immediately receiving rave reviews from pork scratching fans from across the UK.
Recognising the challenges the hospitality industry faced during lockdown, John and David worked closely with their pub customers, replacing all snacks that had reached their expiry dates completely free of charge. Since the re-opening of the hospitality industry, Beerpig has enjoyed a significant period of growth, with the number of pubs stocking their products rising from just 30 in January 2020 to over 300 today. Beerpig sells one ton Beerpig Pork Crackling to pubs and clubs across the UK every week, and the company is hoping to expand its pub operations to over 1000 outlets by the end of 2023.
John Walker, co-founder, Beerpig said:
“Pork scratchings are the most popular pub snack in the UK, yet despite their popularity, the way they are sold today has hardly changed since they were first developed nearly 200 years ago. I felt selling warm pork crackling would be something that would be popular with drinkers, so after tailoring and perfecting our recipe, we quickly started receiving regular orders; however, when Covid-19 struck, we were forced to completely re-evaluate our business model. Imagine starting a new company selling to pubs and bars for them ALL to be forced to close their doors within a matter of weeks,
We approached Launchpad for help fairly early on in our business journey and Darren and the team have been incredibly supportive. We knew that for our business to succeed it was important to get everything right from day one. The one-to-one advice we’ve received helped us to get our terms and conditions right, protect our brand, as well as refining our business plans. The workshops we’ve attended have helped us to build our customer base, increase online presence and understand what it takes to run a successful business. Launchpad has provided a constant source of support throughout our business journey, and the help we’ve received has enabled us to not only believe in our ideas but lay the foundations for significant future growth.”
Darren McDool, Launchpad adviser, said:
“Beerpig is an exciting company with a bright future ahead of it. Like any true entrepreneur, John and David spotted new opportunities when faced with adversity, and despite being forced to radically transform their original plans, almost overnight, they were able to adapt their business model and tap into new ways of generating revenue for the business.
Building a strong brand can be an important way of distinguishing your services from those of competitors. John and David knew they would be entering into an incredibly competitive sector and recognised the importance of distinguishing their products from others. Crucially, they also knew it was vital to protect their brand and spent time successfully trademarking their company name, logo, as well as developing custom built equipment to heat their products, as well as getting their terms and conditions right from the first day they started trading. Launchpad was designed to not only help new entrepreneurs to understand what it takes to build and grow a successful business, but also to help them to create solid foundations, paving the way for future growth.”
Pork Scratchings are believed to have originated from the black country in the early 1800s, but first became a regular staple of pubs in the 1930s. In 2020, a survey revealed that 72% of pub goers have bought a packet of pork scratchings in a local pub. Today, the UK pork scratchings market is estimated to be worth a staggering £28 million.
Beerpig is continuing to grow with the support from Launchpad and are constantly receiving and looking for new stockist enquires where their unique product will thrive in satisfying the UK public with their favourite pub snack. For more information on Beerpig contact the team on 07368 697020 or visit www.beer-pig.co.uk.
Launchpad is a business support programme for new businesses. Financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities within South Yorkshire and The Prince’s Trust, the programme provides free help and support to budding entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting their own business or looking for help to achieve business growth.
For more information on the Launchpad programme and how it operates, contact the Growth Hub Gateway on 03330 00 00 39 or visit www.scrlaunchpad.co.uk.