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Bells & Whistles: Birth of a brand

Bells & WhistlesBells of Lazonby is a business that has always punched above its weight.

How else would a family firm in the Eden Valley hold its own against much larger competitors?

Customers include Costa Coffee and most of the major supermarkets. The business has an annual turnover of £21.1m and employs 240 people.

Back in 2002, Bells entered a lucrative niche market by opening the UK’s first dedicated ‘free-from’ bakery. Of 14 notifiable allergens, it can eliminate 12.

Now the company has created a new lifestyle brand, Bells & Whistles, aimed primarily at millennials looking for a tasty yet healthy treat.

The range of three cake slices – berry and cashew, ginger and apricot, and nut truffle – are all gluten, wheat and dairy free.

But they are promoted more on the basis of the good things they contain, rather than the bad stuff they don’t, and the fact they are suitable for vegans.

Head of Brand and Marketing Josh Boydell-Smith joined Bells from Kellogg, at the start of 2018, with a remit to focus on brand development.

He said: “We began by looking at general market trends at a macro level. Not just looking at food but what was going on in fashion, packaging and what was happening ethically in developed markets. It was about spotting trends.

Josh Boydell-Smith“We identified a younger, higher-spending demographic who were under-served by the market.

“That led us to commission a piece of qualitative research where we spoke to 100 lifestyle consumers in London, Manchester and Birmingham to get a deeper insight into how they buy their treats.

“They wanted something indulgent that was better for them.”

Bells & Whistles took 18 months to develop.

It launched in Sainsbury’s in June, then in Waitrose in July. Asda will follow in September. Overseas markets are next. Exports to Australia are due to start before the end of the year.

Josh said: “We obtained good PR with coverage in fashion magazines and newspaper supplements. Social media is important too, especially Instagram.

“We’ve had a great organic response on social media with people trying the products and reviewing them.”

Bells used a brand design agency in Leeds, Robot Food, to develop the concept of Bells & Whistles and used a smaller Cheshire-based agency, Double D,  to create a website.

“We wanted to use a northern agency to create our brand and Robot have done a fantastic job in positioning the brand,” Josh said. “We did a lot of brainstorming with them to come up with the name and the concept.”

Bells & Whistles sits alongside Bells’ other brands We Love Cake (gluten, wheat and dairy-free) and The Village Bakery Melmerby (100% organic).

Josh added: “Each of our brands stands for different things but quality runs through all of them. We have a focus on quality.”