Former chef Kit Campbell and his partner Rosie Boyla are on a mission to condense some of the most powerful and exciting flavours from around the world into their own unique fiery hot sauces and chilli jams, handmade in Dollar, Clackmannanshire.
The duo started Trodden Black – their quirkily named small-batch business venture - in 2018 after rave reviews from friends and family, with flavours inspired by their past travels spent backpacking through South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Kit explains “We were always in search of the path-less-travelled or as people usually say, ‘going off the beaten track’.
"We changed this to Trodden Trail, which was initially going to be the company name, later changing it to Trodden Black, after coming across the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost”.
In Frost’s famous poem, he describes a woodland path covered with ‘leaves no step had trodden black’, emphasising the importance of exploring new frontiers and forging your own path – two things which Kit and Rosie hope to have achieved with their distinctive products.
Kit describes the couple’s main drive as to find interesting or local ingredients that could be paired to create something new and unique as Trodden Black strives to carve its own path in the world of preserves.
"Also, I want to tackle staples of individual countries, such as Korea’s Kimchi (which we already produce) and make them as authentic as possible as a homage.
”One of the first items I was taught to make as a Commis Chef was chilli jam. It offers all spectrums of taste: spicy, sweet, savoury, sour and salt.
"We ate a lot of worldly foods on our travels and I had picked up a lot of experience working in restaurants, so we had a good idea of what flavours would work.
When the pandemic hit and hospitality was forced to shut down, the two saw it as a time to focus on developing and expanding their business.
Kit described the difficulties the company faced, and some ways in which the pair attempted to overcome the many challenges presented to local businesses at the time: “The biggest change was the loss of markets, which made up a lot of our income.
"We had to push online sales which thankfully were picking up anyway as a result of people’s spending habits changing due to the restrictions in place.
"At the end of lockdown, I didn’t have my job as a chef to return to, so had to take the plunge into full-time self-employment.
"The extra time off allowed us to convert my eternally patient mothers' small, neglected single garage into a fully functional, professional kitchen”.
Feeling the burden of the pandemic themselves, Kit and Rosie strove to support others facing difficulties at the same time.
The pair are helping to promote local artists by featuring their work on Trodden Black’s labels.
Kit explains: “We both come from an artistic background (Rosie is a fashion graduate and currently working as a seamstress), so we understand and appreciate creativity but also know how difficult it can be to be seen and to build up recognition for your work in that industry”.
Trodden Black’s eye-catching labels set them apart from other preserves and sauces, whilst appealing to a more youthful audience.
“We had the idea early on but coincidentally the artist Darren John - @darrenjohn on Instagram - came to us first with the idea of a collaboration, which in turn got the gears moving.
"We owe him and his motivation for helping us to start the movement and are keen to continue doing this with more artists and other charities in the future”.
Kit and Rosie are also going one step further by donating a share of their profits to CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably), a leading movement against suicide in the UK.
The charity is currently running a free, confidential and anonymous helpline and web-chat service which offers invaluable help, advice and information to anyone who is struggling or in crisis.
When asked about their personal favourites from their scorching hot product range, Kit answers: “I have a love-hate relationship with the Kiwi and Lime Chilli Death Jam.
"I love it because it’s right up my street with the flavours - sour and limey - and really goes with dishes like curries and brunches.
"At the same time, I hate it because I have to hand peel 64 kiwis per 32 jars (which is not fun). Rosie’s favourite is the Beetroot and Birds Eye Dead Hot Sauce as it’s an underdog but tastes incredible -super earthy with perfect spice level. Also, the colour is pretty awesome, when it’s not on your clothes.”
In the long-term, Kit explains his hopes and visions for where Trodden Black might go next, with possibilities of joining Scotland’s vibrant community of street food traders: “We would love to have a food truck selling our favourite street foods from countries like Vietnam and Cambodia and also Sri Lanka, they really know how to make fresh, tasty and super healthy ‘fast food’.
"Our future plans of course would include all of our jams and hot sauces and a variety of new products that are always in the pipeline. Most importantly we want to become more sustainable as we grow and stay true to our core values”.
Drawing on new flavours they experienced whilst travelling as well as taking inspiration from Kit’s former colleagues in the kitchen, Trodden Black offers a wide range of dynamic, deadly hot products available to buy online as well as at various local markets and stockists throughout the UK.