Candy Kittens founders Ed Street-Williams and Jamie Laing launched their vegan conscious confectionery company in 2012. They shared the strategies behind their success at technology and marketing conference eCommerce Expo on 27 September. For those who didn’t attend the event, CORQ gathered the key points.
Launching Candy Kittens
Candy Kittens was created with a mission to disrupt the industry and demonstrate a demand for sweet treats among adults with a modern twist. Now stocked in all major retailers, Candy Kittens once set out to be a singular sweet shop and soon became the fastest-growing confectionary company in the UK.
With a somewhat unconventional start, the sweets brand generated an online community before a product had been established and operated for two years without sweets. Candy Kittens launched on social media and Williams highlighted the power of the brand’s organic reach on Twitter- which at the time consisted of 50,000 followers- to promote its website launch. Still without a product, the co-founders designed a T-shirt to promote the website release and sold 20,000 in the first day. The sales funded Candy Kittens and boosted momentum.
Made in Chelsea as a marketing tool
Laing attributes part of its initial triumph to his time on the Channel 4 series Made in Chelsea, which he joined in 2011. Using his appearances to rocket-fuel his start-up success, he made it his mission to continually reference Candy Kittens and branded himself with a tattoo of the company logo.
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While the reality show acted as a useful marketing tool initially, Laing and Williams acknowledged it was also a hindrance, suggesting some industry experts weren’t impressed, which interfered with the brand getting into supermarkets. Many also questioned Laing’s longevity as a TV personality and whether the Candy Kittens hype would last.
Advice for new business owners
For new entrepreneurs, Laing suggested naivety is a young entrepreneur’s “biggest weapon” because it fuels risk-taking. From googling “how to make sweets” (which later led them to a sweet trade fair in Germany), trialling different websites, and testing new recipes in front of the public, the co-founders said this created a more personal relationship with the customer. It allowed fans to follow its development from the start, invest in the team as well as the brand, and create an audience who were hungry to buy a product.
Laing and Williams also shared how burgeoning brands can target audiences who are absent on social media. With plans to be available in every postcode across the UK, the pair emphasised the importance of distribution and physical availability in various supermarket chains, while also allowing customers to follow the brands experimental trials, including testing flavours and packaging in public.
Both Laing and Williams stressed the impact of unlikely partnerships to unlock new opportunities and audiences and “push for the unexpected”. In 2022, Candy Kittens teamed up with BrewDog to release a new IPA beer, with a flavour inspired by its Raspberry and Guava Gourmies sweets. The two brands also joined forces to create a unique vodka of the same flavour. More recently, Candy Kittens collaborated with the Netflix-hit show Sex Education to celebrate its final season. To achieve consistent growth, Laing encouraged listeners to hire and work with people “better than you” to create unexpected results and generate buzz.
The future of Candy Kittens
What’s in store for the future? While both entrepreneurs would like to introduce a subscription service, the pair recognise the difficulty of persuading consumers to subscribe to a “want” rather than a “need” particularly during a cost-of-living crisis. But Candy Kittens’ ultimate goal has remained consistent since its inception: overtake Haribo as the UK’s favourite confectionary brand, prioritise the power of the customer experience and continue to work against the grain to create the unexpected.
By Lauren Harris, editor of CORQ. Picture credit: Candy Kittens via Instagram.