Inspired by the legacy of his great-grandfather who was a skipper in Peterhead, local businessman John King launched JK – The Home of Fine Foods – an indoor farmers’ market offering an outstanding range of local food and drink.
Located in the West End of Aberdeen on Chattan Place, the store is primarily focused on supporting and showcasing the best produce available in the area.
Boasting a butcher’s counter, a fishmonger, a large dairy section, dirty vegetables and a deli section with items sourced from independent producers from across the north-east and Scotland, JK Fine Foods is a one-stop shop for excellent, quality produce.
The business originally began life online in November 2015, but soon after launched its first store in early January 2016, doubling in size within the first 12 weeks of opening.
Adding an additional deli section which features organic, gluten-free and vegan products, the store has quickly adapted to customers’ needs. It now houses around 5,000 food products, with as many as possible sourced locally.
Stocking more than 60 gins and 80 craft beers, the drinks section which also includes wine and soft drinks perfectly complements the diverse food offering.
Welcoming around 2,000 customers weekly, the independent store has built up a loyal following. Continuing his mission to encourage more people to buy and support local, owner John King tells Society readers what makes this store so special.
You’ve worked in the family business King Foods for years, why was it important to open a business up to everyday consumers?
My great-grandfather was a skipper so good-quality produce has been in our family for four generations – five if you count my son who now works at the store.
Back in the day my great-grandfather used to throw monkfish over the side of the boat as it wasn’t seen as something many people would enjoy in his day. We’re now selling monkfish cheeks as a delicacy, so it just goes to show how much people’s eating habits have changed over the years.
It’s great to have my son in the business now – it’s always been a family business and it’s been good to be able to pass years of knowledge onto the younger generation.
You originally started as an online business. Was it important to have a store?
I always knew the business needed a face and Chattan Place was perfect for it. With food, people like to go and see it and realise the quality. There’s a real confidence from customers when they see the food and partner that with the customer service and care we provide.
It makes it a really pleasant shopping experience. People really want to buy and support local businesses and we’re a great place for people to do that.
Customers now want to see their fish come straight from the markets and to their plates. They want it natural and as fresh as possible. Field-to-plate and celebrating local produce is so important.
For those who have never visited the shop before, what can they expect?
We’ve got a butchery counter, our fresh fishmonger counter, a fantastic charcuterie selection – the majority is Scottish and from Aberdeen – lots of cheese, dirty vegetables, dairy and a selection of desserts which are made by a specialist patisserie chef. We’ve also got a big range of market products like chutneys and jams, too, as well as an extensive drinks offering.
You’ve invested in in-house chefs and key staff – why was this?
We started with four staff and we’ve now got nine people working for us. These are local people who support businesses in Aberdeen and who know the area.
It’s all about putting the right people together and them growing organically together. The value added service is so important to us and it’s really all about bringing the local shop back to life.
Our in-house chef, Shaun, has been an excellent addition. He makes everything on-site and makes all our ready meals, pies, and fresh dishes that people can take away and cook at home. He’ll even make dishes that people request which I know is greatly appreciated and his beef wellingtons are extremely popular – they sell out all the time because people just love them.
Tell us a bit about the butcher’s counter and the fishmonger?
Scottish beef is amazing and it’s some of the best in the world so being able to showcase it is brilliant. We’re all about field to plate and we primarily use Millers of Speyside for all our beef.
The skillset we have in the shop is something customers really enjoy. They can cut the products to whatever is required and the knowledge behind the counter is very important. I really want to keep the different trades alive as it’s something that means a lot to me. It’s going back to our roots and training people in a brilliant trade.
We’ve been to the meat abattoirs and the fish markets so we know these products and businesses inside out. It’s so important to know where our products are from and it’s one of the first things we do. We want to be known for caring about the produce from start to finish and you can’t get any fresher than the fish from Peterhead Market which we use, as the guys are going out in the boats, fishing and getting it to market. The fish on the counter is incredibly fresh and straight from the market.
You have a lot of vegan products too – is this due to market demand?
There’s not a huge vegan offering in Scotland so we have to source those items from further afield, but we don’t import products – they’re all from Britain. Veganism is going to be massive and it’s something many people are passionate about. We’re trying to accommodate everyone, and although we have a meat counter, people completely understand what we’re trying to achieve.
Dietary requirements are also a big thing so we’ve got dairy-free and gluten-free products as well as lots of organic products. We always try to source items customers are looking for – we really do listen to them and I think that’s one of the main reasons we’ve got such great repeat custom.
Speaking of trends, is sustainability something that’s important to the business?
Absolutely. We’re trying to get rid of all plastic bottles and by the end of next year we won’t be ordering carbonated drinks in plastic bottles, it will all have to be in sustainable packaging. Our vegetables don’t come pre-packed where possible so people can just buy what they need. The dirt that’s around the vegetables is where all the good stuff is.
Sounds great! You’ve also got a drinks specialist who can help customers pick out the best spirits, wines and beers – tell us more about him…
Pete has so much knowledge. He’s tried most of, if not the whole range of beers that we have – and that’s a lot of beers. He knows which ones are the best and he understands what the customers want. His background is in the drinks industry and working with craft beer so he’s a huge asset to have.
We try to source all of our gins from Scotland. There’s one or two from across the border, but primarily everything we have is from the local region or Scotland. The same applies for all our spirits and our craft beer ranges. We’ve got a big wine and soft drinks selection, too, so it makes the store a perfect one-stop-shop for customers.
Christmas must be a really busy time for you guys. How do you handle it?
We want to make it as easy as possible for anyone to have a high-quality Christmas meal but made easy for them. Murray, our shop manager, is on hand to explain all the cooking processes. Everyone should be able to enjoy their Christmas dinner and Murray – who also used to be a chef – will be making sticky toffee puddings as desserts. It’s local, affordable and really high quality.
You can alter the size of the turkey or any of the meats, and people can also create their own bespoke hampers if they like – or pick up our pre-packaged ones. There’s different packages that include vegetables and you can order a lot for big families or even a Christmas dinner for two.
And what’s been the real highlight for JK Fine Foods so far?
Watching people get excited about food again. It’s been in my blood since I was a boy so to see other people take the same interest in it is truly amazing.
We’re just so grateful for all the support we’ve received and I’d like to thank the Aberdeen public for supporting us so much. It’s so easy to go to a supermarket but we’ve put a lot of time and effort into growing JK Fine Foods from just a butcher’s when we first opened into this indoor farmers’ market with everything. It’s a one-stop shop with a family feel to it and it’s really shown how much a shop like this was needed in the area.
Could we expect to see more stores popping up in the future?
There’s potential to expand the shop here and there are masses of opportunities in Aberdeen. I’d like to open a few other places around Aberdeen and we’re actively looking for other stores.