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Selling premium milkshakes to the masses

Jodie Farran and Andy Howie’s Shaken Udder brand brings premium milkshakes to the masses. Linda Whitney reports Selling premium milkshakes to the masses

Just because you launch a business at a festival doesn’t mean you’re confined to the festival circuit forever. You can take a business from a festival field to the high street.

Shaken Udder milkshakes started life at a festival and now its products are in major stores such as Tesco, Boots and Waitrose. Here co-founder Jodie Farran explains how it was done - and how she now combines the business with being mum to baby Elsie.

Hatching a plan

It was at a festival that the idea for Shaken Udder first dawned. In 2004, co-founder Andy Howie was dancing at a music festival.

“Suddenly he had a craving for a fresh, cold milkshake, but he couldn’t find anything of the sort, so he called to tell me and together we hatched a plan,” Jodie says.

After the festival, the pair, who met at agricultural university, took to Andy’s mum’s kitchen to experiment.

“We began concocting home-made milkshakes, experimenting with a blender and loads of different flavours,” Jodie says. “Hours later we were full, but we had also created a range of delicious flavours and a company name - Shaken Udder.”

They started out in a market they knew - festivals.

“We had one tiny trailer and working together at various festivals and events, started serving freshly made milkshakes to the masses,” Jodie says. “After a summer learning the ropes and getting to grips with everything, we invested in another trailer and recruited a small team to help us work the festivals.”

Shaken Udder started travelling from its base, a farm in Tolleshunt Major near Maldon in Essex, to more music festivals such as Glastonbury, Reading and Dorset’s Bestival, plus other events such as the Equifest horse show and the Royal International Air Tattoo.

Growing fan base

As the fan base grew, people started asking where they could get Shaken Udder milkshakes all year round. Jodie and Howie researched the high street market.

“We took a look at the retail shelves and were disappointed,” Jodie says. “Milk was being ruined by lots of artificial ingredients and preservatives.

“Our milkshakes are made with premium ingredients such as real vanilla beans, so we’re often told it tastes like high quality vanilla ice cream. Our salted caramel uses salt from Maldon Salt Company.

“High quality ingredients mean people can taste the difference, so that gives us an edge over our competitors. They’re also gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.”

The pair decided to take the brand into retail stores and in 2008 built a bottling plant. The products were launched with Harvey Nichols in 2008, but are now available in Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Booths and Ocado, as well as thousands of individual shops and cafés.

But just getting your products on shelves is not enough in this competitive market, Jodie says.

“We ensure our packaging stands out and reflects the brand personality, so it’s a mix of fun and quirky with a luxury, premium feel to reflect the premium ingredients,” she adds.

Products do the talking

Customer consultation is also part of the mix.

“We carry out sampling activity to get our milkshakes into the hands of potential new customers, so our products do the talking,” Jodie says. “Despite it being a difficult market, we’re outperforming the market with a 41 per cent growth last year and a 39 per cent growth the year before.”

It may have spread to the high street, but Shaken Udder’s website still emphasises its festival roots, with a large animated logo featuring trees, tipis, a rotating Ferris wheel and moving musical notes, plus a list of festivals where the milkshakes will be available - and where much new product research takes place.

“We try to talk to our customers as much as possible,” Jodie says.

“Attending festivals throughout the summer means we can stay true to our festival roots, while spending five months speaking to customers and fans.

“It gives us a chance to discover the latest needs and wants and also means we don’t lose touch with our customers - always important for a growing business.

“The insight we gain is valuable. The strawberries and clotted cream flavour, which we launched last year, was in direct response to customer demand and, as a result, sales for this flavour are very strong.”

How I combine business and a baby

“Before Elsie arrived, I put plans in place,” Jodie says. “I made sure I’d hired the right people, so we had a strong team structure and delegated some of my tasks.

“Now Elsie is here, I’ve found the biggest change has been letting go of some of the day to day intricacies of the business, so as to focus on the key top line business stats. I’m focusing on the jobs that’ll continue to help maintain our business growth trajectory.

“I’ve realised I don’t need to do everything myself to have a business that succeeds and got better at trusting others with important tasks. I’ve had to delegate and hand over certain aspects of the business in order to maintain a work/life balance, so I can channel my energy into specific tasks and not get bogged down with everything.

“However, it’s a juggling act and if either Elsie or the business demands more of my time I respond to that. Elsie’s routines don’t stay the same for long, so it means constant change and adaptation. No one week is ever the same.

“Despite that, I do try to maintain some sort of routine where possible. In the day, I work when Elsie is asleep. In the evenings, when it’s a little quieter, I concentrate on things I’ve not managed to do during the day.

“I naturally want to do it all, but I have realised that’s just not possible as my life has changed.

“It’s challenging not having the time to do everything to the previous level of detail, but I try not to give myself a hard time about it. Things don’t always go exactly to plan, so I now try to adapt and re-prioritise where needed.” Read more like this

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