Day in the life of a Kentish fudge maker
PUBLISHED: 12:18 15 April 2019
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Fine Art graduate Arianne Mills on having quite possibly the best job in Kent
Name: Arianne Mills
Job title: Production Site Manager
Based: The Fudge Kitchen, Aylesham, www.fudgekitchen.co.uk
Tell us about you
I live in Aylesham and after A-levels I went to Canterbury Christ Church University to study Fine Art. Alongside my studies, I worked part-time at the Fudge Kitchen shop in Canterbury for five years. After graduating I was given the opportunity to manage a new Fudge Kitchen production site, producing a new butter fudge for high-end wholesalers and retailers. Possibly an odd diversion from Fine Art, but I was taken by the creativity involved in hand-crafting fudge, in developing new products and our hampers come with an Art degree presentation!
Where did you train?
All staff members have been trained in house. This is an involved process, as all our fudge, brittle and caramel is hand made, hand stretched and handworked to the perfect texture. Premium confectionery making is a fickle business, particularly reacting to temperature changes, and our recipes are degree sensitive, so it can take up to four months to fully train up our staff. We look for staff with a creative flair, great attention to detail and a passion for quality. It's a high that we get to work with chocolate every day, but a low when we end up craving savoury food!
Your job's best bits?
Fudge Kitchen is a real family environment and as a team we are always open to change, which I love. We are all involved in the creation of a new flavour or product range and it is great to be involved in the process from New Product Development to finished product on the shelf. We currently have 120 fudge flavours in our recipe book and are constantly creating new ones, but Sea Salted Caramel is still a firm favourite and best seller. My favourite flavour has to be the chocolate and chilli.
Any Easter varieties?
We are launching an Easter selection as part of our 'Sliders' range. It's a six-piece gift box in an Easter-themed sliding sleeve, containing six pieces of hand-made traditional vanilla fudge, made from only natural ingredients. A great alternative to chocolate eggs.
A typical working day?
Each day at the production site we are producing fresh fudge to order. Our recipes and production processes are closely guarded secrets, but the basic process involves weighing up the core ingredients, boiling to approx. 120 degrees and then beating the fudge to create a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth texture. We make 200kg of fudge a day, which increases to 400kg during our peak seasons. We then cut and decorate our fudge by hand, hand pack our selection boxes and despatch pallets of stock to more than 200 stockists, including Harrods, Selfridges, Fenwick and Lakeland, as well as our online orders. Behind the scenes, Alice Nagorsen (our NPD champ) works five days a week on new product development, which recently has been focused on a new selection of retro sweet-themed fudges. Stand back for Sherbet Lemons, Rhubarb & Custard and Parma Violets, all uncannily replicated in fudge form.
Won any awards?
We have a total of 17 Great Taste Awards under our belt, we won a Food Manufacturing Excellence Award and our MD, Sian Holt, was awarded a Taste of Kent Special Award for Vision and Leadership. The fact that so many of us have such a long history with the company says it all. It really does feel like being part of a fudge family.
You in five years' time?
With the growth we've seen in our first five years at the Aylesham production site, we may need a bigger site in five years! We will continue to innovate and are working hard on expanding our Free From and vegan ranges. We even ran a competition among the shops to develop a fudge using functional food ingredients. It brought out some incredible creations using the likes of chia seeds, avocado, cacoa nibs and turmeric.
How do you relax?
I enjoy cooking and dog walking.
Marks out of 10?
10! I work with fudge and chocolate – what's not to love?!