The recipe for success: two companies know the ingredients

Debuting on the food and drink market is complex. Creating that special product is merely the start. So the recipe for success calls for thick skin, and strategic thinking and agility in equal measures.

The UK food and drink industry is really cooking with gas. The latest figures from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) show it contributes £29bn to the economy, employs 400.000 people and its export makes up more than £22bn.

SMEs make up 97% of the sector. With access to investment, great international human capital and an increasing appetite for new products, the industry is growing fast. To keep up with demand, FDF predicts the sector will need to employ 140.000 more workers by 2024.

This week, the 100 Stories of Growth campaign celebrates two companies that are the proverbial proof in the pudding. They excel in the UK food and drink industry. Mixing perseverance, forward thinking and quality, their founders have really spiced things up.


Creative Nature: free-from eaters get a bar of the action

Founder and CEO Julianne Ponan set up Creative Nature out of her of frustration at not being able to find a good range of healthy allergen-free snacks. She’s gone a long way from experimenting with recipes in her own kitchen to selling 1m bars a year at major UK supermarkets.

With a perfect recipe under her belt, in 2012 Ponan set off on an entrepreneurial journey using her own savings. Though she had victories like winning two gold stars at the Great Taste Awards and launching in Holland and Barrett, she was keen on reaching even headier heights. But her novel idea didn’t meet with a warm welcome from angel investors.

I went to a few angels and they laughed at our forecast. They said it was absolutely ridiculous and we could never launch into a supermarket on our own. And one investor even called me a little girl.

Julianne Ponan, Creative Nature

Ponan says that rejection was one of the best things that could have happened. It ignited her determination to succeed on her own even more. And she did when Creative Nature secured a deal with Tesco which funded further growth.

Today, Creative Nature generates a £1.8 turnover and exports its snack bars to Switzerland, Malta and Denmark. In September 2018, the company surpassed its investment target of £350.000 equity in the company, creating a pre-money valuation of £5,508,000. Now, Ponan has her eye on conquering the US market.  [Read Creative Nature’s story]


The Lakes Distillery: the No.1 whisky distillery to visit before you die

In just seven years, Paul Currie, Gary Thornton and Nigel Mills have created a multi-faceted whisky emporium in the Lake District. The Lakes Distillery produces 400.000 whisky bottles and generates a turnover in the region of £5-10m.

Producing whisky is a lengthy process, it takes three years and a day before the liquid gold is certified, which may pose a financial challenge for many aspiring distillers. To focus on developing the quality of its whisky while being financially liquid, The Lake Distillery created multiple income streams, explains CEO Nigel Mills.

For most distilleries, it’s a race to get the casks open and get the whisky sold. But for us, we have other income streams. And as a result, we have time to develop our multi-oak, multi-sherry maturation strategy.

Nigel Mills, The Lake Distillery

The Lakes Distillery also produces gin and vodka, has on-site and online shops, guided tours and a restaurant. The entrepreneurial trio sourced top distillers, business experts and an ex-Michelin-starred chef to achieve a fine blend.

With top human capital and a great business plan, The Lakes Distillery was in a strong position to seek investment. The company raised £9.9m of Enterprise Investment Scheme-qualified funds and topped it up with another £1.5m from Crowdcube, and £600.000 in grants.

By the time its whisky hit the shelves in 2017, the company had already won accolades, generated handsome profits and hosted 100.000 visitors a year. This year, Mills is expecting a £6.7m turnover and The Lakes Distillery is looking for more capital to expand to Europe, the US and Asia.  [Read The Lakes Distillery’s story]


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