Family firm Musk’s had been making sausages in Newmarket since 1884, to the same recipe formulated by founder James Musk. But by 1999, it was running at a loss.
A buyout and rationalisation by new owner and MD Chris Sheen, along with a surge in interest in gourmet sausages, changed everything. Musk’s moved from Newmarket High Street to an 1,800 sq ft unit on the edge of town, and now employs eight full-time staff.
It has gained EFSIS higher-level accreditation, won gold awards from the Guild of Fine Food Retailers, and has been granted two Royal Warrants.
The company now has a turnover of about £600,000 a year and is profitable. It offers four varieties of fresh sausage, as well as sausagemeat.
“When I first arrived, we made only one flavour of sausage,” says Sheen. “But we introduced pork and leek, promoted them by going to food fairs, and at one fair we were asked if we did a gluten-free sausage for coeliacs.
“We made one, substituting rice for bread, with the same meat and spices, took it to the multiples and it has been the saviour of the company, increasing our turnover 35%.”
Musk’s supplies Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury, as well as delis, and Sheen describes the multiples as very supportive. When pork rose sharply in price just before Christmas, they readily accepted a price increase.
However, the major retailers perceive the product as an East Anglian offering and have been reluctant to offer it nationally. For that reason, Musk’s offers its more far-flung customers a mail order and online service. “There are lots of small producers around the country fighting against the big brands to try and be discovered,” says Sheen.
Greg Meenehan