Rakusen’s Ltd | CommonwealthFirst | World Champion in SME Support

Rakusen’s Ltd – Second Cohort Export Champion


Healthy water crackers

Location: Leeds
Company website: www.rakusens.co.uk
Sector: Manufacturing

Rakusen’s has been producing delicious, healthy water crackers since 1900 and was the first manufacturer in the UK to do so. The entire Rakusen’s range of crackers is flame-baked to a traditional recipe, giving each bite a unique but subtle nutty flavour. Over the years, the company has expanded its range beyond crackers to include biscuits, margarines and soups, while developing its core product out to adapt to the modern snacking market.

Historically Rakusen’s produced kosher products for the Jewish community with a mainstream healthy eating market subsequently presenting itself. The company’s flame-baking process is unique within the UK and holds the advantage of being the only UK produced gluten free cracker.

Having already made a good start to internationalising their products, CommonwealthFirst will look to support Rakusen’s in finding further markets for their unique product with Canada, Australia and New Zealand likely to be early targets.


Apply now to become an Export Champion.

How did you hear about the CWF programme and what made you apply?
The Rakusen’s Finance Director was told about the CWF programme by our LEP adviser & was instantly interested as it is a good fit with our aspirations for export growth.

How did the idea for your business come about?
Rakusen’s has been in Leeds since 1900 serving the Jewish community. The idea to evolve the business came 2 years ago when I saw the latent opportunity to expand into main stream, Health & Well-being & gluten Free markets both domestically & international. There was latent export business that with dedicated focus could be capitalised on to deliver the stage of growth outside the kosher markets.

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
Our Kosher credentials are both our strength & our weakness. The brand is recognised with the Jewish Community but has a lower level of awareness outside of that. The company had been up for sale for a number of years and had been under invested in terms of brands & equipment during that time.

Finding the initial funding for market development against this back drop is a key challenge for us when exploring the international opportunities.

What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
The biggest challenge we face when exporting to identifying the right partners in relatively unknown export markets. We are looking for long term partners with whom we can grow the territories.

Our brand has low awareness outside the UK which can be a difficulty as the comparison is often to Carr’s which is a different product & brand proposition entirely.

Also we have limited resources in terms of people but also marketing & development funding for new markets. So even when we have selected a partner it can be challenging to identify where to allocate resources with so many potential opportunities.

What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop your business?
By the far the most important thing we did when buying the business was to re-design & re-structure the product range. I recognise the importance of having a strong masterbrand across the ranges & clear purpose & structure to the products. This highlighted NPD opportunities some of which have launched & others which we are still developing.

The most crucial thing I did for the business was to begin to develop the USA business for day 1 of taking over, now nearly two years later we have established new business, re-structured old business & have several strands of dialogue going with potential partners in the USA. It’s a huge opportunity but quite fragmented. The key to the success so far has been continuous focus on the USA.

Another crucial action I took was to invest in 2 new additional full time employees in Sales & Marketing. This has allowed me to keep the focus needed on the USA business but also allowed the business to gain deeper relationships with existing customers as well as reach out to new ones.

What are you hoping to get out of the CWF programme?
Our key aspiration is to develop as many meaningful new contacts & introduction as possible. To achieve the target of doubling the turnover of the business.

More specifically we are looking to grow our branded distribution in Cananda & establish business in Australia

What is a typical working day for you?
Any MD of an SME will tell you there is no typical day! The role is very varied from dealing with production decisions one minute to managing the USA business, meeting the design agency or recruiting new employees the next. It is literally non-stop.

Where would you like your business to be in 5 years time?
In 5 years time we would like to have doubled the size of the business including having established a US office. It’s important to us that in 5 years time the Rakusen’s & Bonn’s brand have a base of distribution Canada & Australia from which we can grow.

Another key aim for the next 5 years to establish a string name for Rakusen’s as a Gluten free supplier both in the UK & abroad. This is something we’ve been doing well for 30 years & need to shout about more

What advice would you give to anybody looking to set up an SME?
Be realistic about what resources you are going to need & be prepared to find them you will need to generate your funding without external help. Like buying a house there will always be more that needs to be done that you first realise. Self-reliance is key!

You also need to be able to wear many different hats, a good knowledge across a range of disciplines is better than being highly specialised.

Are there any food trends that you have witnessed since the start of Rakusens?
The Gluten Free trend is one that we are seeing gathering even more momentum , an increasing proportion of our manufacturing is now GF.

What is your most popular product and why?
Our hero product is the Rakusens 300g & is the best seller as its been around since 1900, however, the product gaining the most interest & with steady sales growth is our Yorkshire range. Brand Yorkshire is very strong right & the we seeing the halo effect of The Tour de Yorkshire & other Events promoting the county.

Is there anything exciting in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?
At present our product development is focused around adaption of core products for export markets, so this involves adapting recipes & packaging to suit local tastes & requirements. We are also looking at extending Gluten Free formats & flavours.


This interview was conducted as part of the CommonwealthFirst Export Champion interview series. Apply now to become an Export Champion.