Meet the producer: Made For Drink
Dan Featherstone is the founder of Made For Drink – a small family business making premium bar snacks from its home in Maidenhead, Berkshire and supplying such famous names as Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Group and Fortnum & Mason.
What were you doing before you launched Made For Drink?
I started my career working for Walkers as a graduate selling crisps off the van and seven years later ended up in marketing, launching new products. I then moved into the wine industry, working for a brilliant Chilean business called Concha y Toro. It was a great couple of years in which I felt I made a real difference, and I was also able to start Made For Drink (MFD). It was hard work, but I look back on those days with happy memories.
Why did you decide to launch Made For Drink?
We went through a couple of difficult years as a family, and I just felt that I wanted all the things that I could control in my life to make me and my family as happy as we could be. One of the big things in my control was my career, and, ultimately, climbing the ladder at a big corporate wasn’t going to make me truly happy, so I started my business.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned?
Set yourself a clear vision, take action and make it happen.
What’s the story behind your partnership with English Heritage?
I approached English Heritage (EH) with an idea to partner on a project that I thought would be a lot of fun. The aim was to understand the history of the British pub snack. EH loved the idea and the fact that we could bring some of these foods to life sealed the deal. It’s going to be a brilliant project launching later this year. This conversation then led to a bigger one about EH as a brand, their snacking range, and our product design and manufacturing capability. I’m happy to say that last month we agreed to a five-year global partnership which will see us launch a range of premium English Heritage snacks.
What’s inspiring your plans to introduce plastic-free packaging and your ‘Do The Right Thing’ commitment?
Quite simply, my son Henry. When you are the founder of a business, the brand represents you. So, as we started to scale in volume a few things were tugging at my conscience that my son had bought to my attention and that I thought we could change. Namely, the impact MFD has on our environment: plastic and CO2. In July, we launched a category-first home-compostable pouch for our Salami Chips – a process that took over 13 months. I’m positive we’ll be ready to move the entire range by the end of 2020. Understanding our CO2 emissions has been another eye-opener. We decided to look at our entire supply chain, understanding how much each pack contributes, identify quick wins and how to best offset the areas that may take longer. The results are staggering. A tiny business like ours emits around 400g of CO2 for every bag sold – approximately 100 tonnes a year. It blows my mind. We have immediately moved all our production here in the UK to 95% green energy sources and our distribution to all customers in the UK to a CO2 net neutral model.
Why is it important for you to control your production?
There is a direct relationship between the quality of the products you are selling and what people are willing to spend their hard-earned money on. I’ve always felt that you have to be in full control of the quality of your products and so I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
What is the best thing about being a small business?
Working with a close group of people to achieve something great.
…and the worst?
Self-doubt. It’s the killer of all ambition, ideas and business and is what makes running a small business so hard at times; at points it’s devastating. But somehow you pull it back together and move forward. All entrepreneurs experience this and I manage those moments by surrounding myself with people I trust.
Read the latest edition of Fine Food Digest here.