About Time You Met: Adam Sopher, Founder of Joe & Seph’sBy Angelica Malin
We love nothing more than popcorn; it’s our go-to afternoon snack in the office. But not just any popcorn – sweet, crunchy, luxury Joe and Seph’s popcorn is our brand of choice. We sat down with the man behind the delicious treats to discover more about the Joe and Seph’s story:
Tell us a little more about the Joe and Seph’s journey – how did the idea come about?
My dad, Joseph, did a lot of travelling between the UK and the US for business, and would always bring back flavoured popcorn as gifts for friends and family. Each time he went away, he’d be inundated with requests to bring back flavoured popcorn. After retiring in 2010 he decided he would try to make his own, but even better!
Why did you decide on popcorn?
It was something we all really enjoyed as kids, and the only thing my dad used to cook for us!.At the time, there was nobody else in the UK producing premium, flavoured popcorn, so despite having no experience in food, my dad, mum and I agreed to trial a few flavours at a food show and see what would happen.
How long did it take for the idea to become a physical product?
At the beginning, it was just a bit of fun for family and friends. There were a number of failed attempts in the family kitchen, and to be honest we didn’t really know what we were doing! But one day my dad finally worked out how to get caramel to stick to the popcorn without it impacting on the quality, and from there we started to test different flavours, such as coconut and cinnamon.
In 2010 we decided to trial 6 flavours at a food show, not thinking that anything would come from it. However, our products were such a hit we ended up selling out in two days. Four months later we launched in Selfridges and Joe & Seph’s was born.
How did you scale the product – but still keep quality high?
It’s our mission to create the world’s best-tasting popcorn. All our products are handmade in our London kitchen by our fantastic team of skilled pastry chefs, and we only use the highest quality ingredients; no flavouring or preservatives. My dad and I regularly taste test every batch too. There is a lot of back and forth to make sure we get the flavours right, but it’s worth it.
You guys create weird and wonderful flavours like Marmite, and Gin and Tonic – have you any other flavours in the pipeline? And have you ever tried flavours that haven’t quite worked?
We currently have over 50 flavours of popcorn, though there are always new things in the pipeline. We’ve recently launched our Prosecco Caramel Sauce, and have a brand new Chilli Chocolate Popcorn coming out in time for National Chocolate Week in October. The run up to Christmas is always an exciting time for us, and this year we’ll be adding a few winter warmers to our alcoholic popcorn range too. There have been one or two flavours which haven’t quite worked (yet!), like toasted marshmallow, which tasted great but we just couldn’t get the texture quite right.
What advice would you give to people who are looking to start a food brand?
What’s important for us is the quality of ingredients used to make our popcorn, this is key to what makes Joe & Seph’s so unique. Having control, from start to finish, over what goes into your product I believe is really important for a food brand. It also helps if you love what you have created, and we all love popcorn.
You’ve collaborated with Divine on a special chocolate Easter egg – do you have any partnerships coming up?
Absolutely. There are one or two partnerships in discussion, but I’m afraid you will all just have to wait and see to find out!
You’ve recently launched a Prosecco Caramel Sauce, how did the idea come about?
We wanted something really celebratory. Because our caramel sauces are great for baking it made sense to create a sauce that adds an extra something for celebration bakes – birthday cakes, wedding cakes, etc. Also we wanted to extend our boozy popcorn range to our sauces and Prosecco was the perfect match.
Are you looking to launch any new products in the future?
Absolutely! We are always creating new popcorn and caramel sauce flavours along with ranges for national holidays and other special events.
What’s been the hardest part of setting up your own business?
Because it was just myself, my dad and my mum at the beginning it was all hands-on deck – creating the popcorn and going to all the shows. It was all consuming, but we knew it would be and was completely worth it.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Get out and meet people, creating a network is invaluable.
Favourite brunch spot in London is:
Berber & Q’s brunch is a must do if you’re in Haggerston.
Favourite place for coffee in London is:
Monmouth in Borough Market is a great coffee spot for a little bit of head space or for a meeting in the city.