Ipswich brand launches beer nuts, vindaloo nuts and vegan mango jerky

Bonkers Snacks sells a range of premium spiced and roasted nuts and more Picture: Charlotte Smith-J

Bonkers Snacks sells a range of premium spiced and roasted nuts and more Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

Ian Bacon hopes to shake up the snack world in East Anglia.

Ian Bacon (left) and Dayrell Leeks of Bonkers Snacks Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Ian Bacon (left) and Dayrell Leeks of Bonkers Snacks Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

It sounds like the dream retirement…lounging in the sun in Sardinia, not a care in the world. But, admits the director of Bonkers Snacks, who emigrated to the island off the coast of Italy with his wife, it gets boring.

Former marketing bod Ian Bacon returned to Suffolk with a fire in his belly to do something different, and a chance chat in the pub has led to him pairing up with one of the region's best-loved breweries…with hopes his nutty nibbles will be the snack of choice at inns across the eastern region (and at a premiership football club).

"I started out with spice kits two years ago," Ian says of his foodie adventure, in which he's ably assisted by Dayrell Leeks. "I returned from Sardinia and was looking around for something I could do. Then I ordered a Hello Fresh one day and thought 'I can do better than this'."

Roll on a few months and Ian had launched meal kits, and later recipe kits, employing female prisoners in Wakefield for the project, which helped him increase volume, while giving the women meaningful skills and qualifications they could transfer into the workplace.

"We were doing reasonably well and I had 40,000 of these kits sitting in the warehouse, but online sales died, predominantly because bigger companies like Colman's and Schwartz started to develop recipe kit packs as opposed to just selling herbs and spices.

"I had to look at doing something else. I was sitting in a pub eating Nobby's Nuts and I thought 'we can do better'. That was in June time, so we came up with the name Bonkers Snacks and went about finding a crazy style image and a name that stuck in people's minds. We've now got eight snacks in the range and pubs seem to love them."

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Supplied in biodegradable tubs, the spread of snacks ranges from a subtle peanut with Himalayan pink salt, and a touch of garlic and rosemary, to Mumbai Munch (like Bombay mix but a bit hotter), Korma Curry peanuts and Vindaloo spiced peanuts.

"We then said, 'what else can we do'? I was looking at making beef jerky, but everything we do is vegan so realistically I had to stay away from meat. I thought, how can we make a jerky without meat, and came up with dried mango. It has the consistency of dried beef and we flavour it with jerk spice so it starts hot and goes sweet."

A turning point for Bonkers came when they recently began experimenting with beer nuts. An American bar snack designed to get punters ordering more beer, the spicy, salty, sweet export seemed like just the ticket for Ian's ever growing range.

"We did loads of experiments in my kitchen and I rented a local restaurant's kitchen and had about 1,000 sample them - they went down a storm. Essentially it's a nut that's been cooked with beer, to eat with beer. So the peanuts are cooked down with beer and dark Demerara sugar and sriracha spice, then baked off in the oven and rolled, while still warm, in caster sugar.

"The end result is sweet with a bit of a crunchy texture and what happens is you start on them and go, 'oh, they're sweet, they're a bit different' and as the sugar dissolves the spice kicks in and you go 'phwoar'."

Ian sent samples out to pubs all over the UK, and began making own-label beer nuts for Station 119 in Suffolk, but was soon approached by Norfolk's Woodforde's Brewery, with the team there keen to make a Wherry beer nut.

"And now, with their collaboration, Wherry beer nuts have landed. They're being sold in the Fur and Feather pub (in Woodbastwick) and in their shop, and they're sending them to every publican who sells Wherry between now and Christmas so they can order from us! We even hope to be on sale at Norwich City Football Ground."

So watch this space footie fans.

Look out for Wherry beer nuts and the rest of the Bonkers Snacks range in a pub near you.