Dressing for success

PUBLISHED: 16:10 18 December 2013 | UPDATED: 16:10 18 December 2013

The Dressing Room, Scarlett & Mustard, Earl Soham
Sandy Ruddock and Julian Pollard

The Dressing Room, Scarlett & Mustard, Earl Soham Sandy Ruddock and Julian Pollard

Suffolk-based Scarlett & Mustard dressings, marinades and sauces are taking the foodie world by storm. Sheline Clarke spoke to Sandy Ruddock and Julian Pollard about their spiralling business inspired by granny’s secret recipe

Sandy Ruddock’s son Oliver has all the signs of being an entrepreneur.

At the age of 11, whilst snacking on bread dipped in his mum’s homemade dressing, made from a recipe that has been in their family for four generations, he announced that he thought they should try and sell it.

He set up a stand outside their house in Earl Soham and tried to tempt passers-by. He returned to his mother two hours later clutching £76 in his hand and told her he had sold out.

“What I didn’t know at the time was that he had emptied my cupboards,” laughs Sandy. The next logical step – as well as making some more – was to try and get it into a shop.

They approached their local butcher, John Hutton in Earl Soham, who agreed to take a few bottles of their ‘Granny’s Original Tarragon Dressing’ and put them on the counter. A week later he rang Sandy to say she had better make some more because he had sold out.

“And that’s where is all started,” said Sandy. That was two years ago. Today the company operates from its head quarters – The Dressing Room – a mile from their home and while Sandy heads up the operations team, making a range of sauces, dressings, marinades and oils, and dealing with branding and design, husband Julian is in charge of sales.

When they took the leap of faith to incorporate and invest in new premises they had eight stockists. Today Scarlett & Mustard products can be found in more than 250 independent stores, several chains and have even found their way into Fortnum and Mason, Harrods and Harvey Nicols’ flagship London stores.

It’s been quite a whirlwind few years for Miss Scarlett and Colonel Mustard who met via the Daily Telegraph dating website.

The story goes that when Julian rang to speak to Sandy, who then lived in Hampshire, her daughter Chloe answered the phone and asked, knowing that Julian had been in the army, if he was Colonel Suffolk. He said ‘no, it’s Colonel Mustard in the study with the lead piping’. When Sandy came to the phone he asked if she was ‘Miss Scarlett in the kitchen with the revolver’. The names stuck and have proved ideal for their very English and slightly quirky company, based on their love of good food using only the finest, freshest ingredients which largely come from a few miles of their kitchens.

Sandy and Julian were married three years ago and set up home in Suffolk with their combined family of five children, three dogs, two cats and 15 chickens.

To start with Sandy, who previously had her own business consultancy working with law firms and city banks, produced the sauces from home while Julian worked in his own outdoor toy business, an enterprise he had set up with a friend some years before.

In what was a distressing turn of events, that business was liquidated so the couple decided to combine their efforts and really try and make a success of Scarlett & Mustard.

“He could sell snow to the Eskimos,” said Sandy of her husband, “and there is no way this business could have done what it has without him. ”

What also helps is being a part of Suffolk’s vibrant good food movement.

“Suffolk people are absolutely reliable, fun, decent, honest and content – it is just wonderful and we have a lot to be proud of and grateful for, and that is reflected in the food industry we have here. People are so ready and willing to give their time and experience; every single person we have asked for help or advice has given it gladly and that is a wonderful thing.

“We are also blessed with the most wonderful team, including Carolyn Hammond, who we call the engine room, and our chair and mentor Ric Ackland-Snow who looks at the business strategically.”

With Scarlett & Mustard products widely available throughout the county and beyond, Julian now has his eye on the export market. He has an order for 7,500 bottles going to America and interest from food halls in Paris, Madrid and Barcelona, which he describes as “rather interesting”.

“We have both had our share of bad luck, but you learn from those things and pick yourself up and there is no question things happen for the best,” said Sandy, “life is about getting back up and having another go.”

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