Belfast Telegraph

Gu founder shares pudding secrets

By Joris Minne

The founder of luxury puddings brand Gu has shared his story with Northern Ireland food start-ups at an industry event.

Speaking at the Ards and North Down Borough Council Food Conference and Showcase in Bangor last week, James Averdieck revealed to the delegates how he created Gu Chocolate Puddings in 2004 with £60,000.

Seven years later he sold it to Noble Foods for around £32m.

The success story is one which most start-ups would do almost anything to emulate and Mr Averdieck did not hold back on the secrets of his success.

"Self-belief, courage, timing and luck," are the key ingredients says the former margarine salesman.

"I could see that Marks & Spencer desserts were unique in their quality and that no other food retailer could match them," Mr Averdieck told the conference.

He was living in Belgium, selling Utterly Butterly when one day he walked into a patisserie and saw chocolate souffles in the display case.

Mr Averdieck already had a passion for chocolate and a lightbulb went on in his head.

"I knew that this was the kind of quality dessert which, if I could mass produce, I could sell to Sainsbury's and Waitrose."

He then did nothing for a year until one evening in the company of his "extremely successful elder brother and his even more successful friends", he was asked by one what he was doing with himself.

"I'm working on the creation of chocolate puddings and am in talks with Waitrose and Sainsbury's" was my reply - which, of course, I wasn't," he says.

"I knew then I had to take action."

He found a partner, a baker from north London who grasped the concept. Together, they began working on the creation of the new souffle for months until the branding had to start.

"I went to a design agency in London, told them about my souffles and actually brought some for them to taste, explaining I had no money to pay them.

"But they liked the souffles so much they phoned me back a week later and asked me to come in.

"They explained to me that very regrettably, I had been beaten to the race by a Swedish confectioner who was making souffles under the brand Gu.

"I was crest fallen and immediately very depressed as I thought my research had been thorough.

"This brand looked perfect and the packing was just what I wanted. The designers then explained that in fact they had created the brand the night before and there was no such Swedish operator.

"It was clever of them because you always want what you can't have."

Delegates were told to make their drinks and food "5% better than anyone else because people go for better quality" when it comes to drinks, desserts, cheeses and anything artisanal.

Councillor Deborah Girvan, the Mayor of Ards and North Down, said the food sector is vital to the economic and social well-being of the area.

"James Averdieck gave us something few people can - an experience which prompts belief, creates ambition and inspires action," she said.

"I'm delighted we had such a good turn out."

Other speakers included Bill Wolsey of Beannchor Group, former Sainsbury's executive Alison Austin and Dr Lynn Gilmore of Seafish NI.

Belfast Telegraph