The dedication to making perfect muesli matches the attention to detail of Prince Charles' model urban village. Perhaps that is why the heir to the throne chose Dorset Cereals to build its factory there.
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One of his favoured designers, Leon Krier, even oversaw the construction of the barn. Dorset Cereals has been based in Poundbury since , and with a steady rise in sales it is eyeing more than just filling Britain's breakfast bowls these days. James Skidmore, the managing director, is about to set off on a trip to China to sell the product. He already has customers everywhere from the Middle East to California.
Exports now make up more than 10 per cent of the business. You can't blame him for jumping on a plane for a bit more excitement. Poundbury itself is extremely quiet. Fed up with modern architecture, the Prince of Wales decided to create an integrated community of shops and businesses and a mix of private and social housing. It might not be to everybody's taste, but 23 of its residents are employed by Dorset Cereals, meaning just a short walk to work each morning.
The rest of its strong workforce — predominantly factory workers — travel from neighbouring towns including Weymouth, seven miles away. Being made in Britain has been a huge selling point for the brand.
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As well as being mixed and packed in Dorset, about 80 per cent of the ingredients are also sourced in the UK. In fact, Skidmore, a former commercial director at Kerry Foods, can barely find fault with manufacturing in Britain. He explains: The factory might be a vision of British success, but notices on the walls, written in English and Polish, are a reminder of its place in the European Union. Dorset Cereals has even stepped in here to help.
It provides English courses on the premises for any workers who wants to learn — in their own time, of course. The food and drink sector doesn't grab many headlines — except when Cadbury is getting taken over — but it employs more than , people. In Dorset, jobs are hard to come by, so a steady job — skilled or unskilled — in a cereal factory is in demand. The staff's efforts mean that little Dorset Cereals is vying head-to-head with the muesli giant Alpen. But both brands have the same goal in mind: To bring a switch from rice, congee, dim sum or noodles in China, or lavash bread and feta cheese in the Middle East, to a bowl of cereal with milk.
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In China, where Skidmore is in the early stages of finding a partner, Dorset's "foreign credentials" could be to its advantage. But in food there have been many food scares with local brands. We are now seeing that international brands are more popular as they are not tainted with former food scandals. Chinese investors have spotted the market for cereals in China. Elsewhere in the world, the company targets the right markets with the right products. In the US, granola is by far the most popular cereal, with muesli a much smaller category. Dorset Cereals makes sure its granola — baked in an oven down the road from Poundbury — is shipped out across the pond more frequently than muesli.
For the batches going off to the Middle East, packaging is in Arabic. Dorset Cereals has already come a long way from its humble beginnings in when it was founded by Terry Crabb as an alternative to the "rabbit food" options on the market. Dorset Cereals still carefully mixes its oats and flakes to make sure there isn't too much dust — the powdery dregs found at the bottom of many muesli boxes — and includes more fruit and nuts than some rival products.
British-made fare appears to be in demand — accounts filed at Companies House this month show the company's turnover is up 2. But operating profit for the group is up Skidmore is now overseeing the next phase of the brand's growth.
He says: It was a nice proposition but it was not a sophisticated business. In , for it to take off and for it to challenge the rules of the sector, it had to change.
Dorset Cereals Sales| Get 25% | January
Now we are more than muesli — we have granola, porridges and cereal bars. It was really a classic brand re-launch. But just as the brand got bigger, others started to get into the market too. Skidmore says he isn't worried. It is a form of flattery. But where others might have tried to copy the box or design they couldn't compete on taste," he says. The biggest worry might not even be the competition.
Rampant inflation has driven muesli ingredients up more than 56 per cent in price over the past three years. But will consumers want to part with more and more money to have a good breakfast? For now, from a sleepy corner of Dorset, it forms a small part of Britain's resurgent manufacturing sector.
Dorset Cereals Luscious Berries and Cherries Muesli
Just the sort of thing that Prince Charles would proudly tuck into. Middle Easterners might not spring to mind as obvious fans of muesli, but Dorset Cereals has carved out a customer base in the region. It began talks in with a distribution partner in the region and started selling in Dubai in James Skidmore says the demographic in the Middle East is similar to the UK, with "higher income customers" buying its premium-priced boxes. And it isn't just ex-pats that are fans. Skidmore says the brand is selling across the population of higher earners.
The traditional Middle Eastern breakfast of lavash bread is being swapped for a bowl of cereal. We just stand for good quality produce," Skidmore says. Dorset Cereals isn't alone in exporting to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest growth markets for the UK's food and drink manufacturers. In exports to the country grew by At The Independent , no one tells us what to write.
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