Piggy Treats For Father's Day With The Snaffling Pig Co

TOAST pigs out with The Snaffling Pig Co

Men may be notoriously hard to buy for, but you can’t go far wrong with a generous jar of gourmet pork crackling this Father's Day. TOAST chats to co-founder of The Snaffling Pig Co. Andrew Allen to hear about the casual bet that started the company, what the Dragon’s Den was really like and of course to learn more about their delicious piggy products.

Sausages. Pork belly. Bacon. Pulled pork. Scotch eggs. Salami. Sausage rolls. The list goes on and on. There’s no doubt that pork is one of the most versatile and tasty meats around, as well as being the most commonly consumed meat worldwide. Another popular piggy treat is of course crackling – the best bit of any Sunday roast - and then there are also scratchings and rinds on offer but, if I am being completely honest, I am not entirely sure how the three differ. Luckily Andrew Allen, co-founder of The Snaffling Pig Co., is on hand to expand my piggy knowledge.

Ahhh, the holy trinity of porky snacks!” Andrew enthuses, referring to the trio of crackling, scratchings and rinds.

 “In simplest terms - scratchings are a traditional, harder product, normally cooked once. Rinds are generally what the US market eats – they are sometimes called ‘Crunch’ in the UK. It uses leaner rind, cooked at a higher temperature, so they are much lighter and fluffier. And crackling is normally the same raw rind as a scratching but double cooked with the second pass at a higher temperature, so it keeps the majority of the bite, but ditches the teeth breaking hardness!”

You see, Andrew Allen is an expert of all things meaty treat-related as he is one of the co-founders of The Snaffling Pig Co. - makers of big, bold flavoured premium pork crackling. Andrew, along with business partners Nick Coleman and Udhi Silva (or as Andrew calls them - his ‘partners in swine’) launched the business less than 3 years ago in a modest office just outside Henley, with one borrowed desk and a lot of love for the noble porker.

Nick and Udhi basically had a bet about who could create a better side project - and Nick thought pork scratchings would be fun. Knowing my love of meaty snacks Nick suggested I got involved, and having spent my career in advertising I was keen to do something on the other side of the fence. The rest, as they say, is piggin’ history!” Andrew explains.

It’s a business born out of passion for the product more than anything though. I still think that’s why we’ve got this far - the love of it makes the good times sweeter, or in our case saltier! And the harder times easier to cope with. When we first went full time on it, the running joke was that if it all ended in tears we’d at least not be hungry.

The Snaffling Pig Range

Well things certainly haven’t ended in tears; quite the opposite. After only a year of trading the likes of Selfridges and Ocado were already major stockists and now their products are available in supermarkets, delis and posh pubs up and down the country. They even managed to bag a dragon on BBC’s Dragon’s Den last year - so just what is the key to their success?

We’ve got 3 guiding values - have fun, do great things and don’t be a dick” explains Andrew.  

“The last one is pretty damn important to us. I listened to a podcast by Michel Acton Smith the other day, and he said ‘what’s the point of being a billionaire if everyone thinks you’re a dick?’ and we couldn’t agree more. Though I doubt we’ll ever get the chance to test the billionaire part of the theory out!

Of course another integral contributing factor to their success is all the tasty, piggy products that they produce too, begging to be snaffled. All of their crackling is cooked by a third generation butcher in the Black Country – dubbed by Andrew as ‘the spiritual home of the porky snack’, and everything is carefully hand-cooked, although I am told that the process itself is a closely guarded secret. Their gourmet crackling is then generously flavoured in a range of unique, imaginative and quite frankly mouth-watering varieties such as Maple, Habanero Chilli, BBQ and the ultimate flavour combination that is Ham and Colman’s Mustard.

Generally we initially look at what works with pork in other recipes and formats, we then work on some approaches with our development kitchen before doing some tastings” explains Andrew.

The joy of having lots of pubs as customers mean we can get some great feedback quickly, but they can be pretty brutal too! That’s exactly what you want though.”

Andrew tells me that Perfectly Salted is their most popular flavour volume-wise, and that BBQ is probably the one that gets snaffled the fastest when the Pig is out offering up samples at shows. I ask Andrew what his preference is, but it’s clear that he feels conflicted…

You can’t have a favourite child!!!” he exclaims, “Nick Jenkins does love Salt & Vinegar though...

Speaking of Nick Jenkins; he is of course best known for founding online greetings card giant Moonpig.com and is also one of the dreaded dragons on BBC’s Dragon’s Den. Last year Andrew and Nick appeared on the show and after successfully pitching their growing business they secured a 70K investment from Jenkins, who described their snacks as the nicest pork crackling that he had ever tasted.

Ultimately we weren’t looking for someone to help us run things, we wanted a mentor who had been there and done it, and who can help us get our heads up and look at the bigger picture, which is so difficult when you’re in a growing start up.  Nick is awesome in that role. He’s also a top bloke, which really does help!” Andrew enthuses.

And the show is very real, it’s not a staged reality - the doors open, you walk out and it’s a genuine and quite long pitch process. Having pitched all my career in advertising really helped on the nerves front and we were more prepared than we’d been for anything else - feeling ready meant we were as excited as we were nervous, and it was great there were two of us. It was a bloody brilliant adventure with a mate first and foremost!”

So with their passion for all things pig, stylish packaging (who doesn’t love a Kilner jar?), imaginative flavours and ultimately a delicious product, The Snaffling Pig Co. is going from strength to strength, and just last year they scooped up an impressive three Great Taste Awards for their Perfectly Salted, Black Pepper and Funkin’s Fennel cracklings.

The awards act as validation for what we try and do, and also gives customers confidence if they’re buying as a gift. The awards we got last year show we can do the simple stuff and the more adventurous flavours just as well.” adds Andrew.

It’s ultimately a pretty simple product to make but that means you have nowhere to hide - everything in your ingredients and processes needs to be right. You can’t cut piggin’ corners!”

Up until fairly recently, pork scratchings had long been considered a bit of a grotty pub bar snack and not considered remotely fashionable, but thanks to the likes of the Snaffling Pig Co. and a handful of other premium brands dishing up tasty, interesting and well-designed pork snacks, pig is now big.

“Things like the rise in craft beer have undoubtedly helped - it’s brought a different angle to the market.” explains Andrew. 

“The fact we’re a start up and not from the industry initially has definitely been a benefit too - we weren’t weighed down with the ‘that’s how it’s done’ mentality that a market can sometimes get, so when we wanted to do things differently, like making a pork crackling Advent Calendar, we just got on with it and did it!”

So next time you’re throwing a do – why not park the posh crisps and normal nuts and indulge in some gourmet porky goodness instead? Andrew tells me that their rinds are great for dipping in sauces such as apple sauce and sweet chili, and for weddings and larger events they offer ‘Pig & Mix’ where guests can dive into several large jars and fill up striped paper bags with tasty crackling; a fun and unique savoury alternative to the now familiar sweetie table.

Yes crackling is a bit of a guilty pleasure - but if you go through life without a little of what you love you’ll be pretty miserable!” says Andrew.

Oh and they tend to go well with beer...” he adds.

And as luck would have it - the Snaffling Pig have just launched their very first brew which complements their cracking crackling perfectly. Brewed in the West Country, Piggin’ Beer can be bought on it’s own or as part of one of their tasty gift ‘Pig & Pint’ packs – perfect for making dad happier than a pig in, well, beer and crackling this Father’s Day.

I would say a gift jar of our Ham & Colman’s mustard crackling is a pretty solid place to start, so long as dad likes mustard!” suggests Andrew.

One of the things we love about gifting is that we suddenly have totally different competition, but I can say with an almost straight face that you should go for our crackling because it is way better than socks!”

The Snaffling Pig Beer

The next addition to Andrew and co.’s porky portfolio is set to turn crackling into more of a chef’s ingredient; the crackling Crumb is designed to top burgers, be added to sandwiches and sprinkled over salads for a crunchy, salty, tasty touch. Watch this piggin' space. 

Father’s Day is on Sunday 18th June 2017. For contact details and more information about The Snaffling Pig Co take a look at their website www.snafflingpig.co.uk.