Hi Lucy and Meriel, please tell us about the creators behind Claudi & Fin.
We met when we were both on maternity leave, Meriel from her job as a TV producer and director, Lucy from her job as a Marketing and Business development manager at her Dad’s company, Flower World. Our children were about 5 months old and we struck up a friendship because we were both really bad at doing the actions to the wheels on the bus.
We got talking about healthy food for children because Lucy’s daughter was teething and she couldn’t find any healthy lollies to ease her pain. We both felt there could be a gap in the market and decided to have a go at making some lollies ourselves using lots of fruit and Greek style yoghurt. After a few near-misses, we found they were a big hit with our families and encouraged by their response, we decided to try and sell some at local farmer’s markets. That plan changed pretty sharpish when we entered a competition with a major supermarket for up and coming food start-ups…
You both entered Pitch Up with Sainsbury’s in 2013 and won. What impact do you think this had on the business over the last 4 years?
The Impact has been absolutely phenomenal. When Sainsbury’s offered us a contract the largest number of lollies we’d ever made in one sitting was 40 – using a borrowed ice cream machine! Our first order with Sainsbury’s was 16,000 units and without this volume, we would have struggled to find a scale-manufacturer who was prepared to work with us. Winning the competition taught us so much in a really short period of time and got the brand established. We’re eternally grateful for the opportunities it afforded us.
Where did the name Claudi & Fin come from?
Now that’s an interesting story! Initially, when we pitched to Sainsbury’s, we had a different name; Yolly. Around the time we entered the competition, we applied to trade-mark the name but when the register was published 6 weeks later, we found we’d been pipped to the post by a large food manufacturer who had trade-marked a very similar name just a week before us.
It quickly became clear we’d find ourselves in legal hot-water if we tried to proceed any further and what followed was an expensive re-brand and lots of brainstorming to try and come up with a new name. In the end, the right brand name was right under our noses in the shape of our children, Claudi & Fin, who were the inspiration behind the original idea.
Who is your target audience?
Our lollies are suitable for the whole family! Initially when we launched, we imagined health-conscious parents with younger children would be our primary target but over-time we’ve gained a loyal following of healthy-eating adults as well as people on calorie-controlled diets. The products are all naturally lower in sugar and calories and packed with real fruit, so they’re a guilt-free choice for everyone.
We all like to tune out – what do you do to unwind when not working on the business?
We’d love to say mountaineering but the reality is simpler than that. We both love good food, good wine, good company and a spot of yoga!
How did you both fund the business in the beginning?
We used some savings and both of us took out a start-up loan; an unsecured personal loan scheme, supported by the government to encourage entrepreneurs. We launched the business on £21,000.
How do you think Brexit will affect small businesses over the next 12 months?
Brexit is a very big challenge for Claudi & Fin, because we import our product from the EU. The fall of the pound since the referendum has meant our products now cost us 10% more than they did when the pound was stronger.
Looking forward is difficult because of the uncertainty over whether Britain will maintain access to the single market. If tariffs were imposed on goods coming in from the EU, things would become unworkable and we’d need to look to the very limited number of manufacturer’s in the UK to produce our product. I think this level of uncertainty, for any business is challenging, because entrepreneurs need to plan for all eventualities. Unfortunately for now, the best plan for us is to wait-and-see and hope the imminent negotiations will soon make the position clearer.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in the beginning?
Trademark your brand name before you pitch to a big retailer like Sainsbury’s!
Where can we find Claudi and Fin?
Nationwide in Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Ocado and selected Budgen’s.
If you could use one social media platform for a year, what would it be and why?
From a business point of view, it would be Instagram. It’s growing at a really rapid rate and I think people have a more personal connection to the brands they follow on Instagram than, say a platform like Facebook, because of the constraints on the content you can share. It presents us with the opportunity to showcase our beautiful packaging and we love seeing pictures shared by people enjoying our lollies.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs wanting to get into the food industry?
Ensure you have an idea that is scale-able. There’s so many amazing food ideas in the UK – my local market is full of them but if you want to create a business that has the potential for real growth, you have to know from very early on if your idea will work across multiple outlets. You have to ask yourself, is there a mass-market for my idea, can my recipe work once its scaled and crucially, can I achieve this at a price-point which is in-line with my nearest competitors?
What plans do you have for Claudi & Fin over the next 12 months?
We have lots of ideas for healthier versions of the UK’s favourite lollies in the pipeline. Our plan is to make eating healthier accessible to as many people as possible, including those who have a penchant for ice creams and lollies! We also have plans to expand the business beyond the British Isles and are actively pursuing leads in the United Arab Emirates and South Africa. In addition to being growth markets, the sun shines all year round in both regions, so every day is a good day for a lolly!