17th September 2013

Simply-chilli header

Handmade taste sensation

The creator of SIMPLYaddCHILLI is mum of two, Susan McCann. After being made redundant from the banking industry Susan decided to give her true passion for cooking a go. She worked her socks off to turn her delicious homemade chilli condiment she's been making for family and friends for years, into a product that now retails in Waitrose, Wholefoods Market and speciality food stores and restaurants across Scotland. Thus, SIMPLYaddCHILLI was born.

How did you get started?
I started the business after being made redundant from banking in 2010.

What inspired you?
I’ve always been passionate about great tasting food. Cooking for family and friends is my favourite past time and for years I day dreamed of a little deli, café, or food related business where I was selling the things I made.

How did you learn your craft of making condiments?
It’s really been a case of trial and error - finding that combination of ingredients that works deliciously together. I made chilli jam for family and friends for years before I decided to try and to sell it - things have evolved a lot since then. My granny was a big jam maker and the first big batch of SIMPLYaddCHILLI I made to sell at my first farmer’s market was made in her old jam pot that my mum gave to me when I told her what I was doing.

What do you love about making and selling your product?
I love the reaction from people when they try it. The surprise on their face when they discover how tasty the combination of chillies and strawberries really is. People get very excited by it and I feel very proud.

What challenges have you faced?
In the beginning, because I was new to working with food, I went through various accreditations and testing with the product, checking things like shelf life, getting insurance etc. As demand for the product grows, I’ve switched from small batch production to making much larger quantities, which poses a whole new set of challenges! Other challenges I face include getting the product out there. I’m only one person and my family help a lot but it’s a tremendous task spreading the word and getting people to try something different.

How many stores have you sold into?
I have sold into Waitrose Scotland, Whole Foods Market (UK), Aldi Scotland, numerous delis and farm shops. I also sell online.

What’s your most popular product in 2013?
SIMPLYaddCHILLI Wild. I’m also developing a hot and sticky strawberry and chilli sauce, which will come out later this year. It is so tasty! I think that will be really popular.

How would you describe your jam creations?
Inventive, bold, addictive, flexible, fresh and guilt free eating!

What’s special about them?
The combination of strawberries and chillies as well as there being no additives, preservatives, or anything you don’t know what it stands for! It really is a no nonsense product that’s full of good ingredients. Also, the distinctive taste of strawberry and chilli – it’s incredibly fresh.

Where do you source your products?
We source all ingredients as locally as possible when in season. We also use local makers.

What sort of foods does your Chilli jam go with?
Pretty much everything!

Where do you get your inspiration from for new recipes/products?
Everywhere – the products themselves offer a lot of inspiration as well as my customers who are always making suggestions. My children do a lot to help me too. Suppliers such as Loch Fyne Oyster bar have inspired me to try a really hot alternative to Tabasco. They currently stock SIMPLYaddCHILLI to have with their oysters. It’s amazing.

What advice would you give others thinking about turning their passion into a career?
Research your market thoroughly– try and bring something out that’s not already there, or improve upon something that is. If you truly believe in the thing you’re making, anything is possible. Be prepared for hard work, but don’t be too hard on yourself. There are so many lovely people to meet along the way – seeing what everyone else is doing is great and a real confidence boost.

What does the future hold for SIMPLYaddCHILLI?
A lot of hard work! 

The SIMPLYaddCHILLI website has a list of suppliers and you can keep up with them on Facebook and Twitter too.

For more handmade treats please follow Kirstie's Handmade Britain


Susan McCann