The Interview: Alex Albone, Pipers Crisps

For Alex Albone, brand owner of Pipers Crisps, hard work, fun and flavour are key to running a thoroughly-modern business

You need passion, hard work and a great team to make something successful – plus luck, and you won’t get any luck unless you work hard. I’m constantly looking for people who can turn my job into obscelence as they’re so much better than I am; there are always people who can get involved and make your business fly by doing a great job.

While we were launching the business we worked out what our brand stood for, and a structure for how that looked. Any time we produce a new flavour we ask ourselves if it does everything that is expected of it; people ask us for ham and beef flavours, but what do ham and beef really taste of? It has to be able to do what it says on the tin, the job of being what we say it is. We always ask ourselves if what we’re doing is a Pipers thing to do, and if it’s not we don’t do it.

I’ve learned that this business is hard work but can be fun. Our sector is great – I meet great, passionate people who I know will appreciate and pay for quality. The people we work with are fun, which is quite important. The food and drink industry has some really interesting challenges in front of it. If we think about fine food, we’ve often thought in the past about where we might purchase it – farm shops and delis, supermarkets and discounters. I think some of the discounters have created an environment which has turned things upside down, and I don’t know the answer about what that looks like. What I do know is that if you’re traditionally a fine food retailer, you have to be a really great outlet. It has to offer loads, and that’s really challenging. There are loads of businesses doing really well, but we’re now in a situation where the best have to do better.

Over the last five years we’ve seen a huge wash out of local pubs go to the wall, but also there’s been a growth of businesses which do as described. If you’ve got an outlet you need to promote exactly what you do well; my local village pub doesn’t feed anyone, they do beer and crisps and the odd food night, but the landlord draws people through the door as he loves what he does and creates a great atmosphere. We have to get what we expect when we walk through the door of an establishment. It’s the same with fine food – if we’re saying we’re producing or selling fine food, it has to be fine food. There can’t be any passing off, and I don’t think we’re seeing as much of that these days as we were.

Read the full interview in the latest issue of Speciality Food, free to download here.

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