When Caron Howe started baking cakes for her small family run coffee shop in Chichester in 1992, she could never have known that 14 years later her culinary skills would have snowballed into a £1m a year business.

Having noted the local popularity of her Caramel Krispie slices, the coffee shop's sandwich supplier asked if she would be able to start providing him with a weekly batch of ten trays.

Ten trays quickly become 100, which soon swelled to 1,000, until in 2003 Howe shut up shop, and with the help of her mother and best friend, started baking her cakes and traybake products full time in a small local unit.

“We used to sit in deck chairs by the fax machine waiting for the orders to come through, then we would scamper about madly for the next few hours trying to fill them.”

Little more than three years later and the days of deckchairs are a distant memory. In March 2004 she attended a Budgens Meet the Buyer Event where her innovative recipes and handmade products won her a contract to supply a small range to a handful of local Budgens stores.

The contract with the retailer sparked a chain reaction, and just over a year and a half later, her company More Food has exploded into a successful operation which employs just under 20 people including: her mum, who handmakes all the tray bake products; dad who helps with the labelling; brother in law; and best friend, who handles the piles of office work and accounting.

As well as garden centres, farm shops, and a number of other small retail outlets, the company, which by the end of 2005 had grown from supplying eight Budgens stores on the South Coast to 70 stores throughout the South of London, has won several new contracts recently, including seven local Waitrose stores.

More Food was still doing all of its own deliveries up until just a few months ago, a feat which was not only expending a vast amount of time, but was also placing a considerable strain on Howe's purse strings.
Budgens' bakery category manager, Nick Hill put a stop to that when he organised for a large articulated lorry to collect orders from More Foods' unit three times a week.

“The first time I saw that massive Budgens lorry arrive in our road I burst into tears. I simply couldn't believe how far we had come. In many ways I still can't,” she says.

Despite More Food's ever-increasing production output, Howe has resisted attempts to get away from the handmade provenance of her products. Although 5,000sq ft in size, her bakery unit still has the appearance of a domestic kitchen.

The company has also just been through an extensive re-branding exercise - scrapping its original girly bubblegum pink packaging in favour of a more mature coffee coloured labelling that better reflects the product's positioning at the premium end of the cakes market, which Howe believes is still relatively untapped.

And while her days of getting sticky in the kitchen are becoming fewer and further between, Howe's culinary wizardry is still being put to good use in dreaming up innovative new recipes. “Any manufacturer will tell you that it's vital to keep diversifying your range and we try to produce a new cake with every season to keep the interest there,” she said.

This autumn consumers will be able to purchase More Food's latest offering: Blackcurrant and Apple Crumble Cake, while for Christmas they can look forward to a White Chocolate and Cranberry Sponge.

And for those who want a slice on the go, More Food has just delved into the snaking market by offering single slice portions to Budgens customers, a feat which went from concept to reality in just four weeks.
Howe's next plan is to start streamlining the production flow and she is on the lookout to recruit an operations manager to add to her ever-growing team which now includes a master baker, and newly recruited piping and confectionary specialist - brought in to help with her move into the celebration cakes market.

And this week she is meeting with Waitrose to talk about expanding her products into more of its stores.

Howe is adamant that she doesn't have a master plan, but nether less she is pretty sure about one thing. “I Wont stop until I see the Waitrose lorry turning up in my road, that really is the ultimate goal. Then I'll be happy.”