Scottish firm Saladworx produce quality salad and artisan salad dressings
Dornoch's Saladworx is a success story to confound the marketing gurus
Until 2011, when the company was already seven years old, Saladworx didn’t even have a name. Run by husband and wife Michelle Bowley and David Herbert as a sideline until 2010, it was only when they won high-profile clients such as Albert Roux and Skibo Castle, and a prestigious Highlands & Islands Food & Drink award, that they realised their hobby had turned into a successful business behind their backs.
Bowley started growing salad leaves and edible flowers for her young children after finding it hard to source fresh, local produce in the Dornoch area, where their business is now run from the 50-acre family farm. In 2004 a neighbour encouraged her to take the surplus to their local shop, and it sold well enough to start supplying other shops and restaurants. In the first few years production doubled annually, and has expanded by 150 per cent for the 2013 season.
‘We had these local, prestigious clients, but didn’t realise what we were doing,’ says Bowley. ‘We never marketed except for asking people if they wanted our produce. We had no website, and no paperwork to send out to people – if I was asked for information on our salads I had to rush something up that night.’
In 2012 they took the obvious step into artisan salad dressings. The impetus was the same as what prompted them to grow 100 different varieties of leaves and flowers, explains Bowley: ‘When our children were young I was buying dressings from anywhere, and found fault with all of them.’ Their own products use ingredients that are as local and chemical-free as possible: both the Highland Premium Hand-Made and citrus-sea ranges use Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil, Arran mustard, Scottish heather honey, and of course their own herbs and flowers.
Success may have crept up on them, but running their own business has still been a vertical learning curve, Bowley admits. ‘We came at it backwards. We’ve done everything because we needed to, rather than because we were told we should.
‘If we had known what we would have to do at the beginning, I think it would have put us off. We did it because we enjoyed it, and I would recommend it to anyone.’