Gü’s James Averdieck: From luxury chocolate pots to healthy coconut treats

After waiting three and a half years to find the right idea, Gü founder James Averdieck is entering the desserts game again to tackle the dairy intolerance problem. GrowthBusiness finds out more.

Last time GrowthBusiness spoke to James Averdieck he was basking in the glow that came from selling his luxury dessert brand Gü to Noble Foods Group.

Back then, the entrepreneur was carefully considering his next move and said, ‘I’m in no hurry now. The key thing is to sit back and reflect and wait for the right opportunity to come up.’

Well, now it seems that Averdieck has found the spark he is looking for and has acquired a controlling stake in coconut-based desserts brand Bessant & Drury.

It’s a move which sees Averdieck move away from the rich indulgent treats associated with his previous successful brand, to a healthier approach which is targeting, in part, the gluten-free market.

Bessant & Drury, which was set up by Ian Drury and Steve Bessant, arrived on Averdieck’s radar through work he was doing as a small brand consultancy.

‘I stayed at Gü for just over a year when I sold it [developing its international growth], and then left in April 2011,’ he explains.

‘I then did a little bit of TV work, before setting up a brand consultancy helping small businesses. One of the companies I met doing that was Bessant & Drury and thought that they had a very interesting position because so many people are dairy intolerant [including his daughter] – with the only real answer to that being disgusting soya milk.’

Averdieck, through his controlling stake acquisition, will be taking on a ‘hands-on’ commercial role, working with the founders to grow its range.

The brand is already socked in retailers including Waitrose, Tesco and Whole Foods and is attempting to slice off a share of the 13.7 million people affected by dairy intolerance in the UK.

‘I have learnt a lot along the way and am very interested in quality products in areas which are quite niche, and this business has some real potential,’ Averdieck adds.

‘At the moment it is such a small range, and what I’d like to do is to find products which will get them into more places.’

Playing it safe?

So why has Averdieck decided to stick to the desserts game rather than using his experience in branding, marketing penetration and business financing elsewhere?

‘I realised that I’m much better at sticking to what I know, and I’ve always been in the food industry.

‘When I build up Gü, I had no idea it was going to be the size of business it is now – I just thought it would be a £2 million company if I was lucky.’

The team he has bought into at Bessant & Drury appears to have the ingredients needed to make the dessert business a success.

Bessant is a wellness expert and exercise coach who developed the dairy-free ice cream by experimenting in his kitchen with a borrowed ice-cream maker in 2011. Business partner Drury has 40 years of experience in travelling the world in search of fine foods and wines.

And as for Averdieck? ‘I have a lot of experience in branding and I will be working with them on that,’ he reveals.

‘I’m not a graphic designer myself, but I know it well and have good relationships with others holding experience there.’

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Bessant & Drury does not have its own factory, choosing rather to develop and buy before marketing. Going forward this will continue to be the case, operating a ‘lean model’, as Averdieck describes it.

Right place, right time

Back in our chat with Averdieck in 2011, the entrepreneur said that it was going to be interesting to see how building a new business was going to go.

‘It’s hard to come up with a really innovative idea that’s “right place, right time”,’ he admitted.

Well it seems that Averdieck has stumbled across a company recipe he likes and is ready to return to the coal face of building a business. As with his G>ü days when everyone else thought he was nuts, once again he believes he is about to taste success.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.