The history of Roly’s Fudge – over 35 years of crumbly fudge
Once upon a time, over three decades ago… our handmade fudge began its life on the kitchen table of a small 16th century Mid Devon thatched cottage in the West Country. Peter and Lindsey Riley, the founders of Roly’s Fudge, began with the vision to live off the land, initially selling the produce from their cottage garden in farmer markets.
It was a hard way to earn a living. To cheer themselves up, Lindsey found an old recipe book of her grandma’s so she could make their family and friends some fudge.
The plate was very soon empty and their friends were asking for more – and Peter and Lindsey realised they had stumbled across a good idea. In those days, factory fudge was plentiful, but who was making real handmade fudge, just like they knew from their own childhood?
From the kitchen to the high street…
But how would Peter and Lindsey convert a 150-year-old recipe into a business?
With some haggling, a large copper cauldron was obtained from an antique shop in Honiton. Their kitchen marble slab was cleaned and sterilised and, using their traditional recipe, the first batch of Roly’s vanilla fudge was produced.
Although it was a time-consuming method that required dedication, it produced a delicious and unique Devon taste.
At this time in 1987, truly handmade fudge was starting to disappear from the market, with factory processed confectionery becoming the trend. Peter and Lindsey were determined not to let this disappear – they wanted to bring ‘real fudge’ to the high street. And this continues to be true to this day.
Much as we get fan letters sent to the ‘Roly’s Fudge Factory’, there is no factory! What customers see in each Roly’s Fudge shop is exactly how it is. Each and every single piece of our fudge is made using traditional methods, in copper pans – just like fudge was made generations ago.
The first Roly’s Fudge Pantry
The first Roly’s Fudge Pantry
The founders of Roly’s Fudge spent several weeks in their kitchen on product testing in order to hone the recipe and make it truly outstanding. Finally, it was time to bring their fudge to the high street – to Torquay, Devon, home to the first Roly’s Fudge Pantry.
It was a gamble to open a shop dedicated only to handmade fudge! The shop was fitted out with traditional gas stoves and their antique copper pan. The shop windows were whitened so no-one could see in. On the day of opening, they made a small peep hole, to reveal people queuing down the road waiting for the doors to open.
The doors were opened, and people flooded in! Lindsey worked all day and Peter worked through the night to keep up with the demand. They specialised in five flavours: Vanilla Clotted Cream, Chocolate, Butterscotch, Rum ‘n’ Raisin, and Maple & Walnut. They were all made with authentic ingredients, no artificial flavourings or additives. Real walnuts and 100% maple syrup was used in the Maple & Walnut Fudge; dark rum and juicy raisin in the Rum ‘n’ Raisin flavour. To this day, our Assorted boxes of fudge still contain these ‘Roly’s Five Favourites’, all made in the same traditional way.
The start of Roly’s Fudge across the country
The shop in Roly’s Fudge Torquay continued to run for two years, exceeding all expectations. When the line of shops was eventually demolished for a new shopping centre to be built, everything moved to Roly’s Fudge Barnstaple. The reputation of the business was spread word of mouth. Peter and Lindsey opened a few more shops opened from there, including one in Totnes and one in Paignton.
Many people, following childhood dreams of opening their very own sweet shop, asked how they could open their own fudge pantries, too. They wanted to share the recipe outside of Devon and around the country.
Peter and Lindsey thought about it. The best way to bring Roly’s Fudge to customers across the country, it was decided, was to make Roly’s Fudge a franchising company. The franchising model would allow shop owners to open their very own small businesses, run by their own families, while continuing the use the by now popular word-of-mouth name of Roly’s Fudge. Handmade, authentic fudge would remain the shops’ core values – and local businesses would be supported around the country.
The very first Roly’s Fudge franchisee was Ilfracombe, which opened over 20 years ago in 1996. Roly’s Fudge Ilfracombe is still based in its same location on the harbour – and is styled in much the same fashion as it began, as an original fudge pantry.
Following soon after was the development of the Roly’s Fudge brand – our unique wrapping paper in multiple colours, and the iconic black and gold logo.
Peter and Lindsey employed an additional assistant to keep up with the demand behind the scenes with accounts and packaging. In time, she eventually took on Roly’s Fudge with her own family to develop it into the business it is today.
Roly’s Fudge today!
Roly’s Fudge today!
Once Roly’s Fudge became a franchise, shops started to open throughout the country, from Yorkshire to the Lake District, West Sussex to Cornwall.
With each fudge pantry operating as its own small business, it was an ideal model for couples and families looking for a family-run business. As a result, even though we have over 40 shops across the country, they are owned by just 14 families. Over 80% of our franchisees own 2 or more shops, with some owning as many as four shops each! We are known as a ‘franchise with a difference’ – supporting families in their local community across the country.
Roly’s Fudge now is the biggest fudge franchise in the world. But what is much more important to us is that all of our fudge pantries remain independent shops on the high street.Every new shop is individually fitted out, with franchisees trained on how to make the best crumbly fudge possible. And each new shop has its distinctive own personality and feel – from our older ‘Original Roly’s Fudge Pantries’ in Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and Paignton, to themed fudge pantries such as Roly’s Fudge Bakewell dedicated to the best of Cherry Bakewell Fudge.
What makes Roly’s Fudge different?
We are family-owned and family-run – so each and every word-of-mouth kind comment has brought us to where we are today. Trust us that every comment and feedback is reaching a tiny team of fudge connoisseurs, dedicated to providing the best service we can.
Reaching 35 years of Roly’s Fudge is only possible with a nationwide dedication to artisan food. Even with challenges along the way, we have never relented in that vision.
When you see a Roly’s, you are seeing fudge as it’s meant to be – produced with quality ingredients and not cheap alternatives, made by staff who are paid fair wages, by small friendly businesses and not cost-efficient factories.
Our fudge will never be made by factories, and will never be sold in supermarkets. Why would we? Roly’s is best enjoyed in store, made freshly on our slab, without any additives or flavourings needed. And we thank you for supporting fudge as it’s meant to be – produced locally and truly handmade!