Fistful of Spice

Some like it hot

Fistful of Spice

Name of business: Fistful of Spice
Creators: Chris Docherty & Steve Gunnell (gentlemen, please add/confirm surnames)
Specialty: Artisan chili products → cuisine
Location: Milton Keynes
Reach: National
Key to success: Respect the ingredients (of the business, of the products, of the community)
Biggest challenge for businesses: Dilution
Greatest assets: They say ‘product and brand’, I say: Chris’s and Steve’s philosophy to partnership and product

Signature blend

What a pleasure it has been to meet them and to talk to them. I’ve met them at the Great Wild Food and Chili Fair in Heybridge, Maldon.

Their name stood out. The visual identity was intriguing. And the guys behind the stand were smiling. They are really the nicest people you could have met.

We started talking. My first impression was that I am looking at the Ben & Jerry of spice. Perhaps.
But when I got to talk to them a little longer I know they are unlike anyone else.

Chris and Steve are creating a brand of their own.

Soon, if it’s not happening already, others will want to be like them.

Positioning – defined

In addition, they agreed early on that they are not going to position themselves on the jokey end of the chili brand spectrum. They analysed the market, themselves and defined a place they want to be in: artisan.

Think about the Converse – quality in itself; widely recognised and understood as a symbol of a certain state of mind. They are making a stand, creating a chili philosophy, developing an experience beyond sauces. The way I see it, they represent a certain school of culinary thinking. Yes, there’s a punch (hence the in the logo).
But it’s not designed to knock you down but enlighten. Fistful of spice blows your socks of in order to make your mind open to more possibilities of how chilli can enrich your senses. Talking to the brains behind the brand made me realise that what they are creating is an experience and has the makings of a culture.

Perhaps even a cult.

They grow it slowly, walking steadily before they will run. I don’t think it will take long for them to pick up a pace though. Ingredients are there and the mixture is potent. All it needs is a few more outlets and perhaps a stronger online presence, but it will come, I am sure. These guys love their craft but they mean business. They know where they want to go – and they are also determined to remember where it all began.

First and foremost, they are friends.

Ground rules 

“We remember that the friendship was there first.”

It takes precedence over any creative differences they may have. This clarity of rules and honesty towards each other is, what I think may keep them from the spectacular split ups of the likes of Fleetwood Mac.

Additional ingredients

Then, they experiment. Remember “Mythbusters”? This is how I imagine Chris & Steve in their kitchen: safety goggles, white coats, blue gloves. Testing formulae for new chilli + [ingredient x] permutations.

Some combinations take longer to perfect than others, but however painful the process may be, they persevere. They suffer, so we don’t have to. Don’t pity them too much because they know every now and then a miracle happens – they stumble upon something that bewitches the mind, ensnares the senses.

Honesty is the base of their recipes

They only sell what they would buy themselves. Even more importantly, they only sell what they would eat themselves. One thing is certain they never compromise on taste and flavour.
Understanding that the product is only as good as its ingredients, is ubiquitous. Yet, we  somehow allowed for them to be diluted in all the E-preservatives and colorants. …but I’m digressing.

Artisan is the key word here. The duo is already working on diversifying within their concept – oils, barbecue sets, flavour boosters. They want to grow the business and no doubt, they will. The products are gradually becoming more accessible, but the way this brand is evolving – and what I think is excellent about it – it’s going to be a brand you want to reach out for.  Think delicatessen, appreciation, experience.

Add relationship with local farmers. Knowledge of how to choose and combine flavours, funky identity and you get one tasteful brand.

Some chili-product manufacturers’ approach can be summed up with a quote “Our orders are to make sure he does not die… but also to make sure he regrets the day he was born.”
With Fistful of Spice, flavour beats Scovilles*.

That’s hot. (I had to take the opportunity to use this phrase. Well, I did not have to, but I really wanted to. So I did.)

Why the Fistful of Spice are my brand heroes:

They are memorable, straight forward and genuinely enjoyable to talk to. Their enthusiasm towards their brand and their obvious expertise was actually uplifting, if that makes sense.
I have to admit I am not a chilli person. People have told me that different peppers have flavours – sweet, sour, earthy… So they said. To me there used to be one flavour: pain. But looking at Fistful of Spice, I believe them. There is flavour. A hotness, yes, but it serves a purpose. I want to try it. It is because these guys are so awesome, I am willing to put my preconceptions away and actually dive in. Well, taste a little bit of the Mango Chili. On a cracker. With a glass of milk within reach, just in case. But I’m in!

Beyond that, they are creating a community. They encourage others to share their uses of Fistful of Spice range. They truly live their chilli-concept. And long may they live.

My lessons from this conversation:

  • sort out your priorities, this will help you develop your business and create stronger products
  • love what you do, do what you love
  • be true to yourself and the rest will flow

Further reading:

Fistful of Spice recommend you check out Brew Dog UK, for their products, business model and visual side of the brand are equally amazing.
If you like them, look up as well.

Elements of a strong brand:
  • enthusiasm
  • authenticity
  • drive


An ethos more than a motto: quality + balance = we wouldn’t sell it if we wouldn’t eat it

Fistful of Spice

Find out more about Fistful of Spice:



*The Scoville scale (devised by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville) measures the spiciness/heat of chilli peppers and other foods. The measurement is expressed in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a function of capsaicin concentration.

Share this story

Klem, author of 90 brand heroes

My name is Klem de Sternberg Stojalowska and Inc Element is my creation. I am a brand communication specialist. I learned my craft working on the creative side of advertising agencies.

I loved being a copywriter, as it included not only writing headlines and paragraphs of text, but also cooperating with designers and generating ideas for promotional campaigns. I also worked with strategists on launching new products and developing new brands.

Working in a team was always key. That includes cooperation with the client. Clarity on the requirements is crucial to meeting expectations and solutions that work. Whether it’s creating a headline or digging into the personality of a business to uncover its strongest selling point – it always is about serving a purpose of strengthening business’ position on the market.

The biggest lesson I learned from the big corporate clients is for communication to be effective. All efforts have to be aligned with brand’s values and the messages need to be consistent.

But being coherent does not mean repeating the same words and images all the time. It means designing messages in line with business’ spirit and goals – they need to be engaging and fit the chosen media platforms.

That is why my team and I begin with analysing brands first and designing solutions second. Understanding the starting point for the client’s brand is what makes or breaks any idea. That’s the
foundation of a successful strategy, one that we build on. It’s imperative to get it right. But that’s not all – getting the right image of the target market is equally important. It influences the type of language we are going to use to reach your audience.

This is what I know.
This is what I love.
This is what I do best.

My background helps with just that. I have a master’s degree in sociology, which puts me in a great position to analyse audiences and develop messages that resonate with them.

For me branding is all about clarity of messages, aligning communication with business’ values and using language (both visual and verbal) that audiences respond to – finding your next ideal client.