Kenspeckle Northumbrian Confectionery
Pit closures and edible coal: the story of Kenspeckle Northumbrian Confectionery.
Image courtesy of Zoe from chowathome.blogspot.co.uk
Coals from Newcastle
Embracing a community’s past to move forward. In essence, the exact case with Kenspeckle Northumbrian Confectionery, as they have embraced Lynemouth’s coal mining past and made it edible.
That’s right! After creating a cinder toffee centre and then covering it in an edible black dust, the concept of edible coal was born. With its distinctive charred outside and crunchy texture, it could be easy to mistake the confectionery aisle for the hardware store.
The brainchild of Andrew Gooding, the Kenspeckle confectionery line has proved hugely successful, making its way south to department store giant Selfridges.
Innovation has been key to the success of the confectionery company, whose attempts to generate funds started in the manufacturing of jams and chutneys from a café named Scrumptious Squirrel.
After finding this to be a saturated market, they branched out into toffee, before having the brainwave one day that people were prepared to spend greater sums of money on chocolate.
Enrolling both himself and business partner Dawn Watts onto a chocolate making course, everything changed.
“We secured additional funds in order to start producing fudge and chocolate alongside each other. The change wasn’t seamless by any means but it was a part of something bigger” says Andrew, the MD of Kenspeckle.
A journey of sweet discovery
The bigger goal became obvious as Scrumptious Squirrel was dropped, in favour of Kenspeckle Northumbrian Confectionary and a journey of sweet discovery was set out upon.
It was at this point that Selfridges came to bring the coal down south, as Andrew described:
“We won a number of great taste awards which caught the eye of Selfridges, who asked us if we fancied pitching to them”.
“We went away and then developed the product. We then travelled to London and pitched the idea, which they liked”.
Supplier to Selfridges
Kenspeckle now supplies three different lines of confectionery to Selfridges, of which the coal was the best-seller over the Christmas period and has sold well throughout the beginning of this year.
Its sales have impressed at Selfridges, as the product will now be sold all year round as the sweet has been promoted from its status as a seasonal line.
The success has been especially sweet locally, in an area which was depleted by the closure of mining pits, the last to close being Ellington in 2005. Mining had been the major employer in the area and accounted for thousands of jobs.
This was then compounded by the closure of Lynemouth Alcan Aluminium Works, leading to the Lynemouth Resource Centre in the middle of the village being created in order to develop the local economy and provide employment.
No jobs = no hope
Asked about that time, Andrew said: “The village was essentially built as a populous to serve the pits. So, when the pits closed the reason for the village had disappeared, leaving a remnant population of aged and low skilled workers”.
“They were isolated from other places of work and had a material disadvantage to unskilled labourers in the area because companies were going to employ people around the corner, as travel costs and the like were just too much”.
“There was not a great deal of investment locally, and when the pits closed they not only took away jobs but they took away hope from the young community”.
Kenspeckle has started to alter this though, by employing local residents and sourcing their ingredients from the local region, as products from Darlington, Berwick and Newcastle are all used in the production of its sweets.
Something good happening in close proximity
“It isn’t really the employment side that benefits the village, as we only get in around 10 staff at Christmas, which is our busiest time” commented Andrew.
“Instead it acts as a really positive reflection on the community, because something good is happening within a very close proximity. It acts as a beacon of hope for everyone”.
The beacon isn’t about to stop burning either, as Kenspeckle are going to carry on innovating, as Andrew told us: “currently, we are looking at producing something that has an iconic value to the North East” as their distinctive image continues to develop.
Written by Alex Knight