Every Friday night in the Cotswold village of Mickleton the noise of up to 70 rowdy pudding fanatics banging their spoons on tabletops can be heard.
The cause of the commotion is The Pudding Club, which has been meeting every week since 1985 in the Three Ways House Hotel to indulge in a love of Great British puddings. Tradition dictates that every pud served is introduced by a master of ceremonies and given a raucous reception by the awaiting diners.
Now the Pudding Club is building a name for itself as a retail brand. Its core range of three puddings Treacle, Sticky Toffee and Ginger Syrup won a listing at Waitrose last year. And the brand has since landed in Ocado, Selfridges, the Mid Counties Co-operative Group and a host of indies. Business is booming, with sales expected to pass £1m next year.
"We'd wanted to create a retail brand for years people always used to ask us why we didn't sell them in shops," says Jill Coombe, owner of Three Ways House and the Pudding Club along with husband Simon and business partner Peter Henderson. The answer, says Coombe, is that she didn't want to compromise on quality by mass-producing her puddings. Coombe tried out a number of third-party suppliers but the results were unsatisfactory. She even toyed with the idea of producing the puddings herself before she finally chanced upon manufacturer Jon George Ltd, which could create the quality and volume desired by retailers.
"It's strange how things work out sometimes," says Coombe. "The chap who produces our puddings is Jon George, who used to be our head chef here and left to set up his own business. We're very pleased to be working with him as he has a full appreciation of the standards we want."
As sales head skywards, there's a plethora of new puds on their way from the club. Four seasonal offerings were added to the range in the summer and another two Christmas additions are set to hit the shelves shortly. Coombe envisages keeping the three core puddings as the mainstay of the range and rotating additional seasonal varieties.
"It's fantastic hosting the clubs because we talk to the customers about what they want, and we can try out new recipes on them," says Coombe. At the end of each meeting visitors are asked to vote for their favourite pud, providing an invaluable steer for future innovation.
A year after the club achieved its first listing, the future is looking sweet. "Volumes with Waitrose were almost double our predictions from day one," says Coombe. At £1.69 the puddings are not positioned at the super premium end, but are "better than supermarkets' own label" she adds.
Coombe would like to secure listings in the big four but says this is not an immediate priority. One matter she is resolute about is quality. She has no intention of sacrificing standards in the pursuit of greater scale. "We'll never do that," she says firmly.
It's an approach that's sure to swell The Pudding Club's ranks.