Couture - setting the record straight
Our new, improved Couture was only officially launched in September 2016 but we’ve already sold thousands of boxes and the response has been amazing with hundreds (literally) of customers now proud to consider themselves 'Couture Converts'.
This has caused a few rumblings within the industry and rumours, gossip and downright untruths now abound - especially on social media - so we’d like to take a moment to set the record straight for anyone who is interested enough to read it.
Despite what some FB comments have suggested, we're not the bad guys here and if there is a David and Goliath struggle, we're definitely not Goliath. Quite frankly, we feel that both we and our customers have been lied to for some time and we are so thankful to have found a new manufacturer for Couture - one who recognises the value of the brand, who is able to produce the volume our customers need and one we can all trust.
We realise some people may feel this is unseemly or even inappropriate but we have a duty to our own employees and to our customers. We therefore cannot allow rumours and untruths to damage a brand which we own and worked so hard to develop. Reluctantly, and in the face of blatant untruths from other parties, we feel forced into the position where we've had no option but to issue this statement.
Cake Stuff started stocking SPD sugarpaste back in August 2013. We put a lot of effort and investment into marketing and promoting this product but, because SPD also sold to customers direct, much of our marketing efforts helped them and other SPD stockists, without necessarily helping Cake Stuff.
SPD agreed to alter the recipe in order to supply a product which was exclusive to Cake Stuff and which we marketed under the brand name 'Couture'. This allowed us to promote Couture without the benefits being enjoyed by competitors who were selling SPD sugarpaste.
SPD initially made sugarpaste largely by hand and we quickly ran into two problems . . .
1. Inconsistency between batches meant customers reported hard lumps
2. SPD were simply unable to keep up with our demand for Couture
In January 2016 SPD increased the wholesale price of Couture by 14p per kg (70p per 5kg box). Cake Stuff did not pass on this increase to our customers.
In February 2016 we first approached another manufacturer about the possibility of them being able to supply Couture.
In March 2016 SPD emailed us confirming that as Couture was made to our spec and belonged exclusively to Cake Stuff, SPD were unwilling to handle any future complaints about the product - so we had to deal with ongoing issues eg hard lumps. To be clear - they hadn't solved the problem, they were simply saying they were no longer willing to replace faulty product or deal with complaints.
During the Spring of 2016 SPD were unable to supply us with any coloured Couture (coloured Couture was our idea and produced after months of nagging them to consider it!) and supplies of white and ivory Couture became more erratic and unreliable. We offered to take as much coloured Couture as they could produce in any mix of colours and quantities and as often as they wanted . . . a dream order for any manufacturer, you would think. Despite this generous offer SPD only produced coloured sugarpaste for their own brand, taking advantage of all our marketing without being able to supply us with product other than on the odd occasion.
SPD invested in new mixing equipment but this repeatedly broke down and for most of 2016 we have received less than half what we ordered each week, constantly selling out and letting down Cake Stuff customers. SPD want to deny this but it's a verifiable fact when you look at emails of what we ordered and the email replies from SPD telling us how much (or how little) we could expect that week. The differences between what we ordered and what we received they do not consider "shortage", but we do.
In May 2016 we began an extensive testing and trial period of the new Couture, culminating in final product testing by 50 busier Cake Stuff customers in June 2016. These 50 customers were sent 3 final samples of sugarpaste and a questionnaire.
During testing, we had identified that hard lumps in the icing were actually being caused by the loose wrap bags used by SPD and not necessarily by the inconsistent nature of manual manufacturing and mixing, as had always been assumed. The loose wrap bags let in air which causes a crust to form on the surface of the icing. Customers were unaware of this and mixed this harder crust through the sugarpaste, resulting in little lumps. Interestingly, those customers who had used Renshaw Regalice (the old, original Regalice) remembered that it came in loose wrap bags and were more aware of having to trim edges from the block before kneading it.
We therefore decided to supply the new Couture in sealed packs, which has completely solved this problem. Sealed packs retain moisture for longer, so the results from all our testers were collated and a few final tweaks made, such as to very slightly reduce the moisture content – much like “Tropic” style sugarpastes.
In June 2016 we received a letter from SPD explaining that they would not be able to supply us with Couture beyond the end of June.
The reasons we were given for this decision were sad family circumstances, which are inappropriate to go into any further here. In fact, the only reason we even mention this is because this situation was presented to us as the business case for ceasing supply to Cake Stuff and for not supplying any new wholesale stockists(!).
We were disappointed by SPD’s decision but completely understood why they felt they would be unable to cope with our ever-increasing orders for Couture while dealing with these difficult personal circumstances.
SPD continued supplying Couture on an occasional basis up until the end of July 2016 (our last invoice from them is dated 29th July) and not September as they are claiming.
The new Couture was officially launched on 15th September 2016.
Despite what was written in that letter, SPD have opened a number of new trade / wholesale accounts including some well-known competitors. So, despite a heart-breaking situation being cited as the reason they could no longer supply us with Couture, they lied to us in that letter and all trust was lost. By April-May 2017, SPD had confirmed on their own FB page that there was, indeed, a tragic situation within the family. So, almost a year later - a year during which many people openly doubted the existence of this letter and our integrity, the reasons we were given why SPD could not continue to supply us have been made public - by them - and we have been vindicated.
Comments on social media, on SPD’s website and now on other companies' websites have blurred the distinction between Couture and SPD sugarpastes. Some SPD stockists have even suggested that Couture is the same as the standard SPD sugarpaste but with a different label. The CDC seem unable to bring themselves to give straight answers to direct questions from FB customers asking if Couture is the same as SPD, so let us help everyone out . . .
Let us be as clear and as we possibly can:
• Couture was not SPD sugarpaste simply re-labelled
• Couture is not the same product as SPD sugarpaste
• Therefore, SPD sugarpaste is not the same product as Couture
• Couture is an exceptional sugarpaste with a money-back guarantee
• Couture belongs to Cake Stuff. Exclusively!
So there it is – a chronological summary of how Couture came to be.
To the best of our knowledge every fact is accurate - we have emails and letters from SPD confirming every single thing we’ve stated above.
SPD still produce a good quality sugarpaste - but it is not Couture.
We wish Bob and his family all the best during this difficult time, but hope that everyone reading this can understand why we felt it necessary to present some verifiable facts in the face of such widespread inaccurate gossip regarding the nature and the source of Couture.