Our story begins in a family kitchen 13 years ago in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal, with a woman who was passionate about food and her husband who could turn his hand to anything.
Developed in response to a demand from athletes, Wedgewood Nougat's food innovation has an energy value of 352kj made up of simple and complex carbohydrates. (Image: Wedgewood Nougat)
Gilly and Taffy Walters started Wedgewood Nougat as a family business with their three sons, Paul, Steve and Jon; today it produces some of the most delicious confectionery that is exported to all parts of the world.
And now Wedgewood Nougat has innovatively entered the sports nutrition market by reinventing its nougat as an energy food for athletes, called Race Food.
Quite simply, Race Food is normal Wedgewood nougat that is less sweet and softer to chew. It is also packaged in a size and format that suits the athlete. The idea for Race Food was sparked when the company was approached by a handful of athletes who already trained and raced on its nougat.
"It turned out our nougat was a perfect mix of simple and complex carbohydrates as well as protein just as it was," says Paul Walters, the marketing director. But some changes were needed to ensure the athletes did not choke on a nut and to make the product easier to unwrap and chew.
With input from the athletes, the Wedgewood team decided to grab the market and run with it. The company developed a product and branding, and Wedgewood launched Race Food in September 2012.
"We think that the South African market is refreshingly passionate and expectedly competitive when it comes to sports nutrition," Walters says. "After spending time marketing in the UK and Europe, South Africa is more spontaneous and friendly."
Handmade for competition
"Race Food is handmade like all Walters confectionery. Handmade brings the art back into food because there are some things that machines just can't do."
Each 22g bar has an energy value of 352kj made up of simple and complex carbohydrates. It also has 5.3% protein and 11.6% fats from almonds and egg white, zero cholesterol, no preservatives, no artificial colours, and is dairy and gluten free.
"Race Food can be used as an energy snack before or after sports like rugby, soccer and athletics, but the real value is appreciated by the endurance athletes, who seek the right mix of simple and complex carbs that help them to maintain a sustained energy level during events."
Despite the success of Wedgewood Nougat, the Walters family are adamant they never want their brand to lose its home-crafted, handmade appeal. "Quality over quantity is always a dilemma, but we're interested in slow, sustainable growth," Walters explains. "We don't want to get too big. And we'll never compromise on our quality ingredients: 36% nut and a 12% honey content, no preservatives or added gelatine, and small-batch manufacturing process ... Essentially, Wedgewood is a quality nougat, and we aim to keep it that way."
The company appears to take as much care in its approach to the environment. Wedgewood, says Walters, makes its own bio-diesel from used vegetable oil. This powers three vehicles, a backup generator, fork lift, farm tractor and biscuit oven. The bio-fuel burns cleaner and emits 70% less carbon.
Steve Walters, called "sustainable Steve" by his family, has some interesting long-term plans to make the factory site fully environmentally friendly and mostly self-sustaining. It is his dream to harvest rain water, which will be treated before it is used in the family homes planned next door and in aquaculture ponds.
"In turn, this water will be cleansed from its nitrates as food for hydroponic vegetable tunnels, and recirculated back to the fish ponds. All the organic waste will go to compost, which will both heat up water for the fish ponds and fertilise the gardens and orchard," Steve Walters explains.
"Waste [will go] into a submerged sewerage treatment plant that will convert organic matter, through a series of bacterial anaerobic chambers, into available nitrates to feed into orchards. Ultimately, the fish, fruit and vegetables will feed their own families."
Wedgewood also partners with Ethembeni, a local charity. For every gift box sold, Wedgewood donates 50c to the charity. "We have raised R200 000 to date," says Paul Walters.
Furthermore, from every package sold Wedgewood also donates 50c to the Wildlands Conservation Trust. The idea is to support projects of an outdoor sports nature, but customers are also able to go online and choose which project they wish to support.
"Conservation is something that we are very passionate about," he says. "We believe that gone are the days when you can operate a business just for profit. Profit is important, but we believe that neither your business nor your brand will be sustainable unless you bring your environment and your community needs into your bottom line."
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