Ok, you may not actually be asking that but it’s a good story – one of far-flung inspiration, hard work and a deep belief that snacks can and should be better.
It all started with a backpack
It was the late 90s. Friends was in full-swing, Tony Blair had the top job and Britpop was banging. I set off to see the world armed only with a backpack and a sense of adventure. On my travels, I met a friendly bunch of South Africans (which is pretty much guaranteed on any global trip) who were delighted to introduce me to a snack they carried with them everywhere. It was biltong, and it changed my life.
Fast-forward a year or so and I was back in the UK, hatching a plan with my friend Andy to set up a wholesale snack business. On a roll with inspiration, we decided we’d take our names – Colin (that’s me) and Andy – and smush them together to create COAN. It just worked.
Biltong the best seller
We loved biltong. With natural ingredients, high protein content and healthy credentials, it’s the perfect snack for an active lifestyle (and not bad with a pint or two…)
We knew we were onto something when it quickly became one of our best sellers. So we took a leap, spent some money and brought out a range under our own brand. The packaging was super basic (clear vac pack, sticker and a stapled card!) but the product was good.
As plucky pioneers in an emerging market, we sensed a growing opportunity and built the range up from original beef to include Chilli, Pepper and Garlic varieties. We then threw all caution to the wind and added drywors – mouth-wateringly delicious dried sausage.
The final cut
By this point, demand was so high it became clear that making, slicing and packing our products needed to shift up a gear – it was time for some serious technology. Fuelled by our own snacks, we obsessed over multi-head weighers, hoppers, slicers, metal detectors and drying solutions until our very own factory was ready for business.
Finally, we had to visit South Africa multiple times (it was a chore, honestly) to help us find the perfect blend of spices to make sure our ultimate product was the best it could be. After countless batches and blends, we’d nailed it – our very own biltong.
So here we are today; still running the business from a farm in the Surrey countryside while COAN Biltong and Jerky is sold in over 3500 outlets in the UK alone.