A husband and wife team whose African-inspired sauces have won a wealth of top food industry accolades are going global.
Bim’s Kitchen, the brainchild of James and Nicola Adedeji, are preparing to unveil their latest culinary creations at this year’s Hamper Llangollen food festival on October 15 and 16.
The company has enjoyed a rapid rise to success since launching in the couple’s modest North London kitchen six years ago and now boasts more than 300 stockists worldwide – as far afield as America, UAE and Singapore.
The business, which moved to Afonwen two years ago to accommodate growing demand, produces a range of award-winning sauces and condiments including curry sauces, BBQ sauces, ketchups, savoury jams, relishes and hot sauces using ingredients native to Africa, where James was born.
Hamper Llangollen has provided the business with a platform to showcase its innovative recipes and gain new customers over the years and the couple didn’t need convincing that the town was the perfect arena to unveil its new exotic dessert syrups.
Following on from the introduction of its Denbigh Plum and Baobab Syrup last year to coincide with the Denbigh Plum Festival, the couple will bring their two new dairy and gluten-free flavoured syrups, African Baobab and Cacao Syrup and African Hibiscus Syrup, to Hamper Llangollen.
Reminiscent of a rich chocolate sauce, African Baobab and Cacao Syrup is made with baobab fruit, cacao, coconut milk, a touch of Anglesey sea salt and cloves. African Hibiscus Syrup is a fruity and spicy infusion from hibiscus flowers, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and lemon juice. Both handmade syrups are perfect for cocktails or drizzled over puddings, cakes, pancakes, waffles, ice cream, yoghurt or fresh fruit.
“The festival offers a direct route to our customers. People are able to taste our products before they buy and you get great feedback from them and can gauge their reaction,” said James, who previously worked as a senior policy official in Whitehall.
“More often than not, they buy something that captures their attention. We have a range of products and lots without any chilli at all but there are also lots of hot products.
“Over the years, people have been asking us if we can produce a sweet sauce they can use as a dessert condiment.
“When we first moved here, we were in time for the Denbigh Plum Festival and we promised to make something the following year. We didn’t want to make something that anyone was else was making so we came up with the idea of a syrup using Denbigh plums which was phenomenally popular.
“It can be used for waffles, pancakes, ice-cream or even porridge. It seemed to be a popular format so we got experimenting after that and came up with our top recipes. “We trialled them at Christmas and decided we would make them on a larger scale.”
The couple originally started making their sauces as a hobby from their former home in Palmers Green, North London, giving small batches away to friends and family. Before long, their tried their hand at local farmer’s markets and soon realised they could market their products much wider to stockists.
“My parents are Nigerian. Although I was born in London I lived in Nigeria when I was younger,” said James, 47, who lives in Afonwen with his wife and their children aged 17 and 14.
“We use lots of nice exotic ingredients and spices such as baobab fruit, cashew nuts, alligator pepper, cubeb and hibiscus flowers. I took them all for granted in the environment I lived in when I was younger but little is really known about them in the West. We decided rather than to create traditional recipes we would create new products using new ingredients.
“People receive a very unique taste of Africa with our products but it’s something they can use as part of an everyday meal. We wanted to be different and promote African food in a modern way.”
Bim’s Kitchen has grown rapidly over the past six years, so much so that the couple were forced to find commercial kitchens to accommodate increased demand and gave up their full-time government jobs so they could fully focus on the business.
“We started from our home kitchen in London and the business soon overtook the whole house. We needed more space and we couldn’t afford the space we needed in London,” said James.
“We thought ‘we can do this anywhere’ and didn’t rule anywhere out. We were looking as far as Herefordshire where my wife’s parents live and because we were looking that far, some of our friends were saying look into the border in North Wales and so we did.
“We found there were a lot more options in North Wales.”
There are now 17 products in the range and the couple are constantly experimenting with flavours to discover new innovative sauces to add to their portfolio. The business has won no fewer than 16 Great Taste Awards – three of which were won this year. The awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, are considered the ‘Oscars’ of the food industry and provide winning businesses with unrivalled brand awareness.
It’s a remarkable achievement for a business which is still run exclusively by the husband and wife team.
“There’s only the two of us, me and my wife. We do the cooking, labelling and run all aspects of the business ourselves so it’s quite full on,” said James.
“It’s more than a full-time job. We put a lot of hours into what we do and it does roll into the night. Sometimes we’re still up at midnight. When you have no one else to do it you have to just get on and do it yourself. They are very long days with little rest but we do enjoy what we are doing and we’re always looking for opportunities to expand.”
Since moving to North Wales two years ago, the couple have grown fond of the local ingredients available on their doorsteps which they’ve incorporated into their products where possible including the Denbigh plum as well as a local rape seed oil.
“We’ve never tried to sell the products as made locally but since we’ve moved here we’ve been using Anglesey salt and where there’s a genuine opportunity to incorporate a local product it’s something we have done,” said James.
“This year will be our third at Hamper Llangollen. We do well there and get lots of repeat customers and new ones every year too. We’re hoping for a similar story this year.
“The festival attracts a wide range of people from North Wales and beyond and we do attract quite a lot of business. It’s nice for people to put a face to the people behind the label.”