Louise Gough and Niki Thompson

Exporting to 28 countries, this south Shropshire company supplies most of the businesses that sell sprinkles here in the UK.

The business has three sprinkle brands – the Twist Ingredients range for wholesale customers, the Scrumptious retail range, and a trademarked brand of mixed sprinkle blends, Sprinkletti.

Louise and Niki are the hard-working sisters behind the company, proving you really can mix family with business by building an internationally respected brand.

It has all grown from very humble beginnings. Niki was working as a director for a housing group and Louise ran a bakery and a catering business with her husband. It was at a trade show that Louise had her lightbulb moment.

She recalls: “Truly was born out of my utter frustration at the limited choice and quantities on offer. I knew I couldn’t be the only baker to want to buy more than 50g of jelly diamonds from the supermarket or need less than a 300kg bulk order from a distributor.

“This was at a time when there was hardly any sprinkle varieties in the supermarket – not even a mini marshmallow in sight! My instinct was that I couldn’t be the only person feeling limited by what was available, and surely there was a way to give bakers more variety and more choice of quantities.”

The pair started out with two shelves of sprinkles in the storeroom of their family bakery in 2010, running their new business around full-time jobs and families, working evenings and any spare moments to get it off the ground.

Demand for their products meant it wasn’t long before they had outgrown the bakery, left their jobs, and moved into a small industrial unit in Ludlow. They have been growing ever since.

Truly already exports to 28 countries from France to Australia, and everywhere in between, including Hong Kong, Uganda, and Saudi Arabia. You can even find their sprinkles in Waitrose in the Middle East. They are the UK distributor for some of Europe’s most respected manufacturers – Hatziyiannakis, Sidilco and Zucceroo.

Sparkling the company has become a major international player

Famous bakers and influencers often use their products, including television cook and baker Juliet Sear, TV chef Rosemary Shrager and popular vlogger Zoella.

Many of the sprinkles you see in shops such as Lakeland and Hobbycraft have been repacked from Truly’s ranges. Recently Ocado began selling 12 lines from the Scrumptious retail range.

Their products are featured in every baking magazine, even stealing the cover of the Christmas issue of BBC Good Food magazine.

Yet Louise and Niki are modest about their high-profile popularity. Niki says: “We often shy away from shouting about where our products have been used because we’ve never needed to.

We have found a way of fulfilling a gap in the market, and the products speak for themselves.

“Our aim has always been to make the widest selection of quality sprinkles available to the largest audience, in a range of sizes to suit everyone from pot to pallet – including home bakers, independent stores, high street shops, commercial bakeries, and industrial manufacturers. With our upcoming move, the sky is the limit on what we can do.

“We already stock over 1,000 varieties of sprinkles – just think how many we will have by this time next year. Whatever our customers need, we want to provide the very best choice and service possible, and this relocation will help the business to flourish.”

Niki pinpoints one of their business highlights, at their first trade show at Earl’s Court.

“We had this small 3×3 metre stand and went in not really knowing what to expect. The reaction to our products was unbelievable – there was a rugby scrum of people around our table, wrestling over the products. We were stunned.

“It was an attestation of the hard work and decisions we had made to get to that point. Plus we met Mary Berry – it doesn’t get better than that!

“Having Rosemary Shrager hunt us down at shows because she adores our products is a real testament to our offering.”

On the other end of the scale, a business that imports from Europe has had Brexit to contend with, followed by the challenges of the pandemic, and now supply chain issues.

Louise says: “Covid was challenging in terms of demand. The explosive trend of home baking changed everything. When the pandemic hit we thought we would have to lay everyone off, then we had the option to furlough, but demand was so high we needed to get people back on the production floor very quickly.

“The lockdowns cultured a real interest in home baking and supporting local, independent businesses. This meant that for businesses set-up for online shopping, Covid-19 has been a great time of growth.”

Niki believes the growing pains of scaling up a small business is the biggest challenge they have ever faced.

She says: “You have to balance suppliers, with a growing number of customers going on account, cash flow headaches and unsupportive banks. The last few years have been eye-opening.

“We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to fill the space at our current base but we have quickly outgrown it. Balancing cash flow, predicting demand, and being flexible to growth are huge challenges for small businesses as they upscale.”

So, can sisters work harmoniously? “We never got on so well as kids!” Louise reveals. “But working together is really plain sailing. Our differences actually complement one another – we bring contrasting skills and knowledge to the table, and we balance each other. We have different pressure points so we’re good at keeping the other one calm during tougher moments!”