There is not one single formula that brings about a winning business. However, what we do know is the odds are stacked up against you if you do not have the support network in the initial stages of starting a business. As well as having a community of people who believe in your mission, a mentor can help you map out your business without hitting too many hurdles. With small marketing budgets in place, it’s these people who we can rely on to actively spread our message far and wide.
John Stapleton has a wealth of FMCG industry knowledge under his belt having built and exited New Covent Garden Soup Co. and Little Dish. We are lucky enough to have been working with John for the past year as our mentor and now investor.
Here’s what John has to say…
Please can you tell us a little bit about your background and your experience in building New Covent Garden Soup Co and Little Dish?
I grew up professionally with New Covent Soup Company, learning everything I ever knew about the UK food industry through that lens. The years between 1987 and 1998 were an adventure which filled me with the enthusiasm to do it all over again so I took the fresh soup in a carton concept to the US market in the form of Glencoe Foods. In 2006 I co-founded Little Dish, the fresh (and latterly ambient) toddler food brand, which we sold in 2017.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt having successfully built and exited both companies?
Have the courage of your convictions – don’t worry too much about what he detractors say (and don’t forget, sometimes you are your own biggest detractor);
Embrace Adversity – if you are an entrepreneur you probably spend most of your time swimming against the tide. Therefore it is entirely likely that you will encounter more than your fair share of adversity and knockbacks. Don’t take this personally – it is entirely normal. In fact the more you encounter it probably indicates you are on to something big!
What are you up to these days?
I provide business growth advice and mentorship to businesses who have an ambition to rapidly grow and ultimately exit. I achieve this either by becoming an investor in the business or in the form of an advisor. I currently have a number of business interests (investments or advisory relationships) in The UK, Ireland and Germany.
In your opinion what’s the recipe for success for anyone looking to build a food or drink brand?
The key to building a national brand is, before you spend any money or time marketing or developing awareness, to design your brand so it is working hard for you. Many believe the key to brand success is heavy marketing budgets
What are the key trends or areas of growth at the moment for anyone looking to invest in a food and drink brand?
Numerous trends dominate the current food and drink landscape. I believe the most consumer-relevant and sustainable into the future are:
Health & Wellbeing
“The demon sugar”
Protein (more accessible/ female-aspirational/ increased number of applications)
Sustainable & Ethical
Reduction in alcohol consumption
The food and drink industry is a very competitive place to operate. How can brands stand out from the crowd these days?
It is worth spending as much time as possible up front defining exactly what is your Brand Essence. Based on this, a comprehensive design brief can be agreed and a good designer can develop a conspicuous and engaging brand design based on this. Brands need to engage with the target audience and communicate with them on both the functional and emotional level – and all of this within a blink of an eye. Bear also in mind that a brand has to be effective in the real world – i.e. on shelf and not in the design studio. Therefore stand-out on shelf among all the noise of adjacencies is essential if the main messages are going to land with the consumer.
What do you look for in the food and drink companies you decide to invest in currently and why have you decided to work with Spoon?
Many investors say they invest in people. I agree. Once the product is “working”, the next most important element to “get right” is the entrepreneur/ management team. After that, even if most other elements of the business aren’t working well, they can ultimately be fixed. If product and team aren’t working, it is very difficult to fix them.
In addition to a very impressive product range, the team at Spoon are skilled, motivated and focused. To add to this the brand is engaging and communicates very strongly the product USPs to the consumer.
Why is it a good time to be investing in food and drink challenger brands and a good time to be investing in Spoon??
Challenger brands are all the rage mostly because many consumers have become wary of the established corporates in the food and drink industry and their claims. Small businesses want to become large as their focus is all about growth. However a new trend has emerged where large companies want to be perceived as small. The authenticity attached to a small brand resonates more effectively than large corporates can.
This is an exciting time to invest in Spoon, not only because it is a challenger brand, but also they have by now have proven the concept; they have a strong foothold in the UK grocery market and the new investment will allow the business to kick on from here. A very exciting prospect!
Finally, favourite Spoon cereal flavour? Why, when, where do you enjoy it?
My favourite flavour is the new Cherry Bomb – Delicious. It delivers really well on flavour and texture and it full of real cherries! The flavour profile is subtly spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon with a light touch of maple syrup. For me this is an excellent elevenses with Greek Yoghurt. Keeps me going to lunchtime!
Interested to join the Spoon family? We want you to get involved and help us on our mission to make breakfast better. Click on the button below to visit our campaign page on Seedrs.