Meet Michael Sohel, a former investment-banking manager, turned condiment enthusiast, when in 2013 he decided to leave his career in the City to launch a new food brand – Lovepickle, and introduce an upmarket range of tasty pickle condiments using his own family recipe.
Food has not always been his forte, he admits, and Lovepickle was to be his first undertaking in the food and condiment business. “Making a decision to leave a career in the City after many years is never easy, particularly when embarking on a venture into the unknown.” And soon enough, Michael learnt of the many challenges in business involving the sourcing, marketing, branding and positioning of a new product. It was the quality and authenticity of the pickle he was most interested in reproducing – the very product that had been enjoyed by his family and friends for decades. “One of the major challenges has been working with a suitable producer or pre packer to ensure the product quality, taste and appearance is maintained at the highest level.” After all, Lovepickle’s recipe had been somewhat changed throughout the years, “acquired through many hands and modified,” so for Michael, launching a food product based on a family recipe was perhaps the most exciting challenge of them all.
Originating from India, the pickle recipe consists of a unique blend of ripe tomatoes, fresh chillies, garlic, ginger, mustard oil, tamarind, herbs, and spices. Available in four strengths – mild, medium, hot, and extra hot – the pickle is very versatile and can be enjoyed as a dip, a marinade for meat and fish, or with pasta and even scrambled eggs! But Michael says it’s best served with Indian foods such as a biriyani, or “with warm naan bread and cheese, the perfect late night snack!” Last year, Lovepickle added Lovechutney to their range – a delicious Indian tamarind chutney, also based on a family recipe. The tamarind and jaggery is infused with a unique blend of spices to create a sweet, tangy chutney, and a hint of spice. All of Lovepickle’s products are produced in South Yorkshire, using local suppliers where possible, and are handmade using traditional methods.
Overall, Lovepickle has proven to be a great success, being stocked at a major supermarket chain, at markets, delis, independent shops and restaurants, and is enjoyed in homes across the nation. You only need to take a look at their Twitter feed to see how popular Lovepickle is, and how creative their customers have become with the products, mixing the pickles and chutney with a variety of foods, from Bombay potatoes and roast chicken, to cheese and baked beans. @laythetable says “just spiced up my baked bean lunch with some @lovepickle_uk” while @MacMac40 is having “bacon, scrambled egg, sausages, mushrooms and loads of #lovepickle.” @DottyDishes admits Lovepickle is so good “it’s hard to stop eating it” and @heynyonya agrees – “LOVE this SO much. Opened it up yesterday and have already eaten HALF THE JAR!”
Furthermore, winning 4 Great Taste Awards in 2015 and The National Chilli Award for Best Pickle is without a doubt, a tremendous achievement for a small business. Not only do good testimonials from customers illustrate the success of Lovepickle, but winning these awards has brought what Michael calls a further “valuable element of credibility to the range of products”, generating new leads for the company including Lovepickle going on the shelves of Selfridges, and getting their products listed with British Airways. “The journey so far has produced many proud moments,” Michael says, “from fantastic consumer feedback to getting both products listed with British Airways First and Business Class flights to India. The most exciting moment has to be pitching to BA and getting the nod.”