Hi Steve – how about a high five and a little thing or two about yourself?
I've always been interested in health, nutrition and exercise and have been running my clinic for the past 20 years where I specialise in holistic rehabilitation, using various modalities of holistic practices to help my clients recover from injury or various health complaints to helping athletes achieve greater performance.
I remember first time I tried coconut collaborative yoghurt. I picked it up at the Sainsburys next to my workplace while on lunch. What was the inspiration behind this yummy idea?
When working with injury recovery many foods can impair the bodies ability to recover or cause inflammation in the gut that can inhibit the muscles of the core firing properly, this is a major issue if you have back pain as the core musculature supports the spine. So for many of my clients I recommend that they remove inflammatory foods form their diets including dairy, gluten, soya and sugar.
That being said I have been taking coconut oil as a supplement and cooking with it for years so was aware that coconut was a great replacement for butter and milk. Due to my love of the ingredient, I started to look into what else coconut could be used for. That’s when I came up with the idea of making Ice-cream with coconut milk instead of regular dairy milk.
I know The Coconut Collaborative is in Sainsbury's, how did that come about and what was that moment like for you?
It is always really great to get a big retailer on board for your products and we still get really excited to get a new listing, in fact we have a good news "gong" in the office that we strike with every piece of good news that we get for the business, the gong rang very loud that day! As always it comes about by lots of hard work from the team, numerous meetings and sampling sessions. Once you have a few retailers on board it is slightly easier to get a product listed as you have a sales history for the retailers to work from, but those initial listings take a lot of work.
Who is your target audience and were you ever nervous about how they would receive the product?
We know there are lots of people trying to avoid dairy but we really want to appeal to a wider audience, our products taste great and being packed full of healthy coconutty goodness our range really appeals to lots of people who enjoy eating healthily, as well as those who want to avoid refined sugars and who just love coconut. We have lots of families that may have one dairy intolerant child that are switching for the whole family for health and taste reasons. We also have a lot of vegan fans as we offer them a tasty alternative to other vegan products.
How did the first batch taste?
I remember the first trial we had tasted really good, we knew we were onto something amazing. As a brand, we pride ourselves in offering a product that’s good for you, without compromising on taste.
Marketing is everything, what advice would you give to others just getting into the food industry?
So true, I remember thinking that we had made it when we first hit the shelves but that was just the start of it, just because the product is on the shelf it doesn't mean it will sell, if you are just launching my advice would be to save some budget for marketing/PR, try to avoid large advertising costs as you don't get much bang for your buck. PR has worked really well for us a brand, if you have something innovative and something that tastes great then it certainly helps.
What is the greatest business lesson you've learnt so far?
Never stop believing in your product, develop a thick skin, don't take things personally and don't take no for an answer.
What's the worse?
Just because someone says that they are going to do something it doesn't mean it will happen. Its not done until its done.
The illustration on the packaging is quite quirky, how was the design process?
We used the London design agency Bigfish for our branding, who were great helping us bring the brand to life, we wanted to be fun and engaging for our customers and very different to other free-from brands which tend to be relatively traditional, functional and can appear boring (much like their taste).
This is something that we’re seeing change across the category now as brands are understanding this is a huge growth area in food and its great to see so many great tasting free-from foods coming to market.
Is there anything else that you plan on bringing to the market under The Coconut Collaborative?
We’re on the verge of expanding our range and using the expertise of my fellow co-founder James Averdieck (Gu Founder) so watch this space...
If you haven't tried the yummyness of The Coconut Collaborative then click here to head over to their website for even more inspiration.