The business’s pop-up sweet shops with a super techie twist feature patented machine hardware and plug-and-play software, designed and built in house.
Customers can buy the online or pay a visit to one of their computerised printers that use cartridges filled with MCF’s own syrup-based, ‘gummy candy’.
This blend comes in nine vegan, vegetarian and allergen-free flavours for deliberate universal appeal and is specially formulated to work in an ingenious modelling process that leaves no waste.
Initially the software turns a customer’s design, created on an interactive tablet, into G-code instructions which then tell the printer where and at what exact speed and frequency it needs to apply the candy layers.
After the ingredients are heated up, they’re applied through a nozzle that works in a similar way to a piping bag or pencil and is capable of producing a potentially limitless variety of shapes and unique combinations to order.
MAGIC CANDY FACTORY is first into print with 3D sweets
Being part of the British high street with John Lewis, a name renowned for quality and service, will be magic for our revenues
Highly popular selfies cost £10 and a mouth-watering bauble with a digitally printed sweet inside is £7.50.
With personalisation now a major retail trend, John Lewis has snapped up MCF as an exclusive highlight for its Christmas Villages in seven of the stores where customers can also get a time-lapsed video of their ‘artwork’ being created.
The high street commission is turning out to be one biggest showcases so far for Katjes Magic Candy Factory, to give the brand its full title, and the two-year-old company, Katjes Fassin UK, says co-founder and managing director Melissa Snover.
“We’re a young, independent company and John Lewis understood that and gives us the right support. Being part of the British high street with a name renowned for quality and service will be magic for our revenues.”
And these are starting to acquire some serious sparkle too with MCF on target for £1.5 million turnover this year and forecasting £20 million in 2020 as it moves into a larger manufacturing unit, seven times the current size within its base in the Custard Factory in Birmingham.
Melissa Snover with the 3D printed sweets
More jobs are in the pipeline as output increases and employee numbers, currently seven plus temporary help, are expected to reach 20 next year.
Snover, an American entrepreneur and food technology innovator, has put “everything I own” she says into MCF after she sold a previous candy brand and set up the venture in partnership with family business owner Bastian Fassin.
Seeing the opportunity of match-making gummy candy and technology she spent “many long weeks learning coding, slicing and networking.”
But when she first took her tech plan to a major food manufacturer “I was told I could never do it,” she recalls. “When we launched Magic Candy Factory the same director called to congratulate me and admit he was amazed. Apparently other global confectionary brands have looked into creating a technology but nothing so far. Perhaps it’s the kind of innovation entrepreneurs are best suited to pursue.”
Some £250,000 of investment has been put in by the two as Snover pursued an international sales strategy with retail sites, corporate gifting, theme parks and events all on the list.
A mouth-watering bauble with a digitally printed sweet inside is £7.50
Another massive help getting the technology to market has been the tax breaks available through the government’s research and development scheme.
“This programme is one of the best in the world for a company like ours that is constantly innovating,” declares Snover who is member of the Federation of Small Businesses.
With MCF’s tax credit roughly 24.5 per cent of its development spend “this has been invaluable as we can then plough that back into new projects,” she says.
“Long may it last as it’s made huge difference to us. It’s bit like our own magic wand and our route to market would not have been so swift without it.”
The printers developed with US manufacturer Printrbot and the software with Sur3D are installed or moved around depending on the contract.
John Lewis has snapped up MCF as an exclusive highlight for its Christmas Villages in seven stores
“Once we had the recipe, adding functionality was critical,” adds Snover. “We got the printer weight down from 136 to just 30 kilos so transport was manageable and we’ve also developed software anyone can use.”
Now in 50 stores…