The Interview: Nigel Cope

Passion, dedicated and teamwork have helped Nigel Cope build Cottage Delight from kitchen table project to one of our industry’s best-loved brands. Here, he tells us how he makes it work

Creating new ideas, new packaging, new tastes and new flavours is what drives me – it's certainly not the money! Just creating something very different to what's already out there and seeing people enjoy it is what keeps me going. I'm very much involved in creating new products and travel a lot to discover new ones. I've been awarded at least 160 Great Taste Awards so far, and I still absolutely love what I do.

I'm very much a stickler for the quality of the product and don't make something to a price. Rather than wanting to produce a jar of something for £2, I will make something the best it can be and sell it for £3 if needs be. Quality is number one – I'm obsessed with it and always will be.

We're always looking to innovate; I oversee the product development team and have to sign everything off – I taste everything, which my waistband is proof of! Some people think that you put products into a store that they will sell, but we now have a lot of competitors and put a lot of emphasis on sampling our products – they're not the cheapest, but when they try them they will see that it's worth it and come back to try our other products. You have to spend the time in that outlet telling people what makes Cottage Delight special.

There are around 700 speciality food products within our range now, and for some retailers it's easier to work with a supplier with one corporate image as it helps to sell other things. We're constantly working to improve our products, and do a lot of blind tasting at the factory to ensure we're always making the most delicious product. We'd been selling a plum jam for years which wasn't the best, so we weren't afraid to change it. Our sales team will do demonstrations and sampling, and I invest a lot of money in helping retailers sell our products.

In dealing with the independent market I'm working with people who are equally as passionate. They're also business owners so naturally care a lot about what they do. We source food from around the world as it's hard to produce consistently good quality food using just locally-sourced ingredients.

I like to think that my passion rubs off on people, and it's wonderful to work with professionals with great ideas. I always say that I'm not a clever person but that I work with clever people. I believe that one should come to come to work to enjoy it or not at all. I have a lot of loyal staff – there's a lot of banter when I walk around my workplace; my staff are a happy bunch of people with passion. I've had people working with me for 30 years and I couldn't have done it without them – Cottage Delight is not just about me, it's very much a team effort.

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