From Fighting Crime

To Making Marinades

How changing career has led to a recipe for success, writes Tracy Hargreaves

Karen Riley from Ashton, Preston, worked in the crime bureau and corporate development departments at Lancashire Police headquarters for more than 14 years. However, when her sister, who worked for Morrisons, picked up a leaflet in the staff canteen for Britain’s Best Dish competition and brought it home, Karen decided to enter and the rest, as they say, is history.

Taking inspiration from her good friend and neighbour, Karen nurtured her secret recipe to almost perfection and with a couple of happy accidents, created a marinade that could be used on all types of meat, fish, shellfish, Quorn and vegetables. Entering her signature dish, Karen’s Spicy Chicken, she made it through to the second round becoming the North West Regional Finalist on the ITV television programme back in 2009.

“On the strength of this, I made the difficult decision to give up my career at Lancashire Police in 2010 to open my very own sandwich shop, Crave in Kirkham, to concentrate on my signature dish, Karen’s Spicy Chicken” said Karen. As the years went by, it was becoming more and more apparent that the demand for all dishes using the marinade was taking over everything else including on the menus for our Outside Catering Events and it was becoming increasingly difficult to juggle all aspects of the business, the shop, outside catering and my twice monthly chicken runs, so I made the further decision to sell Crave in July 2017 to concentrate solely on my marinades.

“In just over 12 months, I have sold more than 2,000 units to family and friends and friends of friends and we are now retail ready! We have three varieties: Classic, No Added Sugar and Mild. This is a fresh, spicy marinade perfect for meat, fish, shellfish, Quorn and vegetables and can also be used as an ingredient in recipes. The business is rapidly growing, and I have yet to find a comparable product in the chill cabinet of any retail outlet,” she adds.

The product is very popular with all age groups including children. It is also Slimming World/Weight Watchers friendly and very economical to use. As an example, each pot contains 10 servings. This would coat 10 chicken fillets at 47p per fillet or 15 fish/salmon fillets or 15 chicken drum or thighs at 31p per serving.

Karen’s packaging states: ‘Created in a Lancashire kitchen, my secret recipe has been enhanced and developed to perfection over many years. Quick, easy to use and extremely versatile. My Indian influenced marinades will delight at any occasion from family meals and barbecues to party food and special events. I have a host of taste bud tingling recipes for you on my website which I hope you will try and love as much was I do.’

Crave is going from strength to strength and has received the following accolades from the Great Taste Awards and has also entered this years too, including its Mild variety, never previously entered. Results are due 1st August, so fingers crossed.

Whilst all the marinades have been laboratory tested gluten free, one of the ingredients states packed in a factory that handles gluten so Crave is striving to find an alternative supplier so the marinades can be awarded the Gluten Free accreditation. Karen is also working on a Dairy Free recipe too.

Crave has also entered the Great British Food Awards this year under the category Best New Product.

Gold Star in 2016 for Karen’s Spicy Chicken Thighs
Two Gold Stars in 2017 for Karen’s Spicy Chicken & Mushroom Pie
Gold Star in 2017 for Karen’s Spicy Marinade (Classic)
Two Gold Stars in 2018 for Karen’s Spicy Marinade (No Added Sugar)
Gold Star in 2018 for Karen’s Spicy Marinade (Classic)

Karen has also been awarded the Great Taste Producer Award from the Guild of Fine Food which is made available for companies with a proven track record of achieving Great Taste Awards for a minimum of three years, which must have been achieved in the preceding five years. An accolade she is extremely proud of.

But Karen didn’t want to stop there, her next mission was to get Karen’s Spicy Marinades retail ready and literally just over a month ago signed with five retailers: Premier Ashton News, Wellington Road, Ashton; Bargain Booze, Select Convenience, Bryning Road, Newton; Kashmir Watan, Kent Street, Preston; Honeywell’s Farm Shop, Eaves Lane, Woodplumpton and Pat’s Butchers, 1 Little Aston Lane, Sutton Coldfield to sell her product, with more stores pending.

“I’m incredibly excited about the future,” said Karen. Who would have thought that looking at flyer in a staff canteen could have led to all this? Who knows what else will happen next?



Tedd Walmsley

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