What a Gouda Grant
Thirty-five years ago, a young man called Mark Hulme borrowed some money from his father for a van to collect and deliver cheese to people in his local area. Move forward through the years, this nascent family enterprise has grown into Rennet & Rind, an award-winning cheesemonger and affineur sourcing and maturing outstanding artisan British cheese. Affinage is the specialist process of ripening and aging cheese to develop the fullest flavours.
Originally trading as The Cambridge Food Company, the business is now one of the largest specialist cheese and fine food wholesalers in the UK. Adding a retail outlet to the business became a priority when the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the food and hospitality industries. It was then that Rennet & Rind was born as they pivoted at super-sonic speed to create a click and collect offer for customers, building a website in a week and introducing new systems and process – all with a skeleton staff, as many of the team were furloughed.
“It was an extremely challenging time, but we had to act quickly in order to survive as a business,” explained Mark. “With stocks of cheese sitting on the shelves, we had to find a way to sell directly to the public and to continue trading. We had to adapt quickly, selling most of our vans and reducing our product range dramatically.”
He described how orders at this point such as the Christmas Cheese box took longer to slice, pack and send to customers but that the flip side of this was that it forced them to have a greater purity in the range of products that they stocked. “To grow the business back up, we needed a bigger maturing room for cheeses which kept them at the right humidity and temperature to create better flavours.” Mark got in touch with Growth Works about their grants as at the time, the business simply didn’t have enough capital to invest after the “brutal” impact of the pandemic.
Mark successfully applied for a Revenue and a Capital Expenditure (Cap Ex) grant which they used to invest in infrastructure to create better space to increase their production capacity, and also enabling customers to experience their new Cheese Academy. The grant supported an investment in marketing to improve their digital strategy, raise their profile as the UKs best affineurs and build a strong customer pipeline for both retail and wholesale.
“The Growth Works grant money has made a massive difference to our brand as well as our company culture – it’s the best it has ever been as we are more focused as a business,” stated Mark. “We are growing at a rate, creating job opportunities which would never happened so fast without the Growth Works grant investment.”
Mark celebrates the fact that this change in business focus prompted by the pandemic and supported by the grant investment, has made them more sustainable in the long term, as well as increasing greater staff and customer satisfaction.
Both Mark and Perry, Affineur of the Year and Rennet and Rind’s Chief of Cheese, have won a stack of awards for their products on the world stage, and the business is set to grow with more delis, farm shops and wine bars coming on board.
Looking back, Mark comments that “without the support of Growth Works, the struggle to survive the pandemic and then take our family business in the direction we wanted would have been extremely difficult. The grants have enabled us to reach a place where the outlook is very positive with happy employees, customers and suppliers across the country.”