Finding the sweet spot: Spun Candy’s global ambitions

Confectionery entrepreneur James Ellender has spun a retail business into a global empire, while staying true to his core values

Finding the sweet spot: Spun Candy's global ambitions

James Ellender can best be described as part Willy Wonka and part Richard Branson. As a young boy loading up his pick ‘n’ mix bags, he used to carefully choose the right ratio of foam bananas to rhubarb and custard candy. And that childhood passion for the sweet life has followed him into adulthood.

Although he acquired a healthy address book working as a consultant for a Spanish confectionery brand, when the company elected to pull out of the UK market Ellender decided the time was ripe to go it alone and start his own venture. While there were plenty of large-scale brands available, he spotted a gap in the market for a thoroughly British brand that offered high-end sweets made by hand from exceptional ingredients. But beyond the candy itself, Ellender wanted to top the excitement of his heady pick ‘n’ mix encounters as a child. “I wanted to take the mystery out of how sweets are made and open people’s minds up to all the possibilities,” he explains.

Key to capturing this experience was the creation of a clear brand identity for the new business, a process the entrepreneur admits was “perhaps the most challenging bit”. Having always been interested in the power of design, he played a hands-on role in crafting the distinctly premium feel that runs through everything from the website to the paper bags, which resemble the striped pick ‘n’ mix bags from his youth.

Ellender’s experience working for a confectionery company on a global scale meant that Spun Candy was designed to work as a franchise from the outset. And, in September 2013, its first retail outlet in London’s Covent Garden was opened. Starting out with a 700 square foot space, the shop resembled a cross between a laboratory and upmarket boutique – giving the product displays drama and drawing new customers in. And as his candy empire began to grow, there’s one thing that tied the outlets together. Ellender recognised early on that experiences were the new luxury and so Spun Candy places an emphasis on delivering a personal experience, not just a product.

Maria Barr
Maria Barr