Andrew Newlands, the founder of the Monty Bojangles cocoa dusted truffle range, tells us why he named the brand after his 13-year-old cat and how some feline inspiration helped to save the business.
My father-in-law calls our cat the most famous feline in the country, but our life with Monty Bojangles began in much the same way as it does for many owners looking for a pet. My wife Sarah and I simply went to choose him from a litter of kittens, and his dishevelled fur and unusually long tail stood out - we knew he was the cat for us.
He settled into our home and was a real character right from the start. He had the absurd aloof pomp of an English gentleman one moment, then the free-spirited 'joie de vivre' of the American jazz big-band legacy the next. The name Monty Bojangles seemed to fit him perfectly.
That was back in 2004, and our kids came along shortly afterwards. Something happens to your brain when you have children - you end up talking a lot of nonsense to them. 'I wonder where he's going today?' I'd ask them, as we watched Monty head up the garden and vanish down a foxhole. He gave them the opportunity to let their imaginations run riot.
He also infiltrated my own imagination and filled my thoughts daily as I worked at our family confectionery business. So, when I had an idea for a new brand of dusted chocolate truffles, it made sense to name them after Monty. That's how the creative world of Monty Bojangles was born. I wanted to create a confectionery experience wrapped up in escapism and indulgence.
Our initial launch was a success, but in 2014 we faced a setback. Although customers loved the chocolate, they didn't understand the brand, which meant sales fell. We had to find a way to make the range relatable, while still holding onto the fun and fantasy.
Watching Monty playing one morning gave me all the inspiration I needed, and I thought, 'What if we put him on the packaging?' The company relaunched, featuring a caricature of Monty on its boxes: a dandy cat dressed in Victorian-era clothes, travelling the world in search of tasty treats. Customers loved it, really picking up on the idea of being taken on a whimsical journey, courtesy of a cat. Now we're one of the fastest-growing brands in the market, and people always ask about the cat who inspired it all.
Monty is 13 years old now and prefers to keep a low profile. He'll join me after a busy day, kneading me and making a fuss, then he'll jump down and be off through his catflap. That's the great thing about pets: they love and inspire you, but also keep you grounded - even if they happen to find fame along the way, too.