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Clippy's - the jam company that started with spare apples from a back garden in Sale

19:42 18 February 2013

Michelle 'Clippy' McKenna and Rosie enjoy their jam on slices of bread

Michelle 'Clippy' McKenna and Rosie enjoy their jam on slices of bread

It all started with spare apples from her back garden in Sale. But this jam maker is now taking a big bite out of the food market.

It has been quite a journey for Michelle Clippy McKenna. The 38-year-old food producer, whose business is based in Sale, has spent nearly five years building up a business with her fianc Paul Gorman. She launched during a recession using apples from her own and neighbours back gardens but Clippys is now an established range of conserves, jellies, chutneys and relishes.


The products are sold nationally at big retailers like ASDA, Tesco, Morrisons and Ocado, as well as at many farm shops and delis. They even stock outlets in America and China. Clippy, whose nickname comes from her love of hair clips, will also release her own cookbook this summer.


She said: I cant believe how well its gone. Weve had an amazing time with lots of hard work. Someone once told me Id never get into the supermarkets. That was a red rag to a bull. I guess weve just taken that approach to everything. Weve never given up.


The preserves are made at three sites, including one just a short stroll from their home. The product development is still handled by Clippy at home. Her daughter, Rosie, four, and local residents are the 185willing taste testers.


Last year, Clippy was delighted to be declared the winner in the entrepreneur section of the prestigious North-West Inspiring Women Awards, held at the Midland Hotel, Manchester.


Her success has attracted national attention. Last year she was a panellist in the ITV News Business Club, along with with industry giants like ASDA Chief Executive Andy Clarke, Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon and Miles Bullough, former head of broadcast at the animation studio, Aardman. During this time she interviewed Business Secretary Vince Cable who cited her business as an example of those which would help save the British economy.


Clippy and Paul are also doing their bit to help fledgling firms find their feet. They were helped through the High Growth Programme which provided advice from experts when they first started out. Paul, a former supply chain analyst, is now involved with the Growth Accelerator Programme, spending time advising start-up businesses on how to expand.


Clippy said: It was something we felt was important to do. We are also really inspired by the people we meet. They are where we were four years ago. It makes you think you are doing the right thing and going the right way.


Paul is out speaking to people all of the time so you question and challenge what youre doing. We learn from each other and share ideas.
It has not all been plain sailing. Recent high sugar prices and last years poor apple crop, which led to a 30 per cent price hike of the fruit, forced them to rethink. The outcome was Marmachilli, an orange marmalade with a chilli kick. Clippy and Paul are also facing a major challenge to an EU directive.


She explained: This directive says that jam must contain at least 60 per cent sugar. If its 50 per cent or less then it can be reduced sugar jam. But if youre in between that, there is no legal definition. Were stuck in that group.


We are in this position because theres not enough sugar. But surely less sugar and more fruit content is better? It seems silly that we cant call our products jam because thats what it is.


There is a consultation being done by DEFRA and they have agreed to include us in it. This could mean a change to the law. But it might not. Weve got the backing of MEP Arlene McCarthy. We will have to wait and see.


A decision is not expected until the end of this year. But whatever the outcome, it is clear this determined couple will thrive.


Clippy, who also hosts jam-making courses at Hey Little Cupcake in Manchester, said: Its all about that most basic of products being produced by a normal mum, someone people can relate to. Its not about being endorsed by a celebrity or a celebrity chef; its about our story.


We have worked so hard and are really proud of what weve achieved. Now we would love to be able to employ more people so we can grow even more. It is very exciting for us.


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