From Tillicoultry to tills worldwide

From Tillicoultry to tills worldwide

Family-run confectionery brand Mrs Tilly’s was launched in the late 1990’s by Peter and Elisabeth Paterson supplying traditional Scottish confectionary to local retailers. Today, the company is flying the flag for Scotland overseas after breaking into a number of lucrative export markets...

Tilly Confectionery Ltd (Mrs Tilly’s) is a family business which began in Tillicoultry in the late 1990’s with the aim of creating ‘quality, traditional Scottish confectionery.’

Initially producing Scottish fudge, Peter and Elisabeth developed their initial products by following family recipes and set up the business from the comfort of their home.

As the company started to grow, the duo outgrew their home kitchen and expanded with the opening of their own production facility in 1997.

Over the next few years – Mrs Tilly’s went on to supply some of the nation’s top supermarket chains - who began to introduce their products to their customers.

It wasn’t until 2013 however, when the company realised the potential demand for their products overseas - and it hasn’t looked back since.

Managing director Blair Paterson, son of Peter and Elisabeth, told BQ: “Around three years ago, we recognised the potential for our products in international markets having worked with Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International and Scotland Food & Drink. 

“From initial, positive ‘meet the buyer’ events we gained business and that gave us the confidence to invest in international trade shows, including ISM (Cologne) and more recently Sweets & Snacks Expo (Chicago).  A significant amount of our business has been generated through these exhibitions.

“We now export our fudge range in various formats from 150g boxes, to 400g gift tins. We have also recently started exporting our toffee, with initial orders shipped to our Canadian distributors in August.

“Exports now account for 10% of our total turnover and our main export markets are France, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Canada and the USA.”

After three years of hard work the company is now reaping the rewards and has joined a long list of established Scottish food and drink manufacturers which can now be classed as international brands.

And it doesn’t stop there. Having already penetrated the European and Canadian markets, Blair now has ambitious plans for the company which was started by his mother and father almost 20 years ago.

He added: “We have an export strategy which focusses on four key areas, Europe, Canada, USA and the Middle East – as these are markets that we have identified as strong opportunities in respect of the products we produce. 

“Our early successes have been in Europe and Canada and we continue to develop these markets with our partners, for example we are currently designing a range of dual language packs for the Canadian market as this will give our range more appeal to the larger retailers.

“The USA and Middle East markets are still in the early stages of development, however we have already generated sales in both markets – so we are very positive about them for the future.

“In terms of where we’d like to be in five years with regard to exports, we believe we can grow our sales to around 20% of our turnover by the end of 2018.”

Speaking about what advice he would give to another business looking to start exporting, Blair concluded: “Do a financial and product health check before you begin – can you afford the required investment and is there a demand for the products you produce in overseas markets. 

“Speak to the various support agencies outlined above, to see what assistance is available to you, in the form of training, guidance and funding. 

“Once you are up and running, make sure you are careful in the selection of partners and distributors, bearing in mind they are essentially an extension of your business.”