How I Started a
Freeze-Dried Fruit Snacking Brand
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey! My name is Dom, I’m the Founder & ‘Chief Forager’ here at Evolved. Evolved is a young, healthy snacks brand with big ambitions!
Our initial range of NASA-inspired ‘Evolved Fruit Snacks’ are here to make snacking on fruit more fun and convenient for everyone. We currently sell them all across the country on Amazon Prime and direct to businesses such as Google HQ.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I started developing the Evolved range while studying a Nutrition degree at university. Although you probably wouldn’t tell from my neurotic chocolate habits, I am very conscious of the food I put into my body.
In particular, I find it fascinating how our relationship with food has changed and evolved with us over time. The modern-day human may seem at the height of evolution. Yet our physical and dietary needs are deeply rooted in our primal ancestry!
Humans, like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, simply aren’t built to run on granola bars and fluffy pink protein shakes. Our complex mechanical bodies recognise and responds to real food. Real food, broken down into real, recognisable nutrients and used for a beneficial purpose.
This sits right at the core of Evolved. Our current and future ranges will share one main thing in common: they are made from real food. Our initial range of Evolved Fruit snacks uses the power of freeze-drying (the same process used by NASA to preserve food for space). We want to inspire people to eat more real fruit and veg (not the pureed, juiced kind!).
In the last 50 years, lack of real fruit and veg in the diet has been a significant issue in the UK. Soaring rates of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes affect so many people in the modern-day.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Developing the Evolved range felt lengthy and slow-burning at times. Being a Nutritionist with no previous business experience, I clumsily stepped on every start-up-related landmine under the sun. I wasted several months with manufacturers that simply couldn’t produce the range I had originally imagined.
Freeze-drying food presents a series of manufacturing challenges that are tricky to overcome without previous experience or specialist knowledge (something my manufacturers and I seriously lacked at the time!). With tens of failed packaging trials and, having faced a string of rejections by co-packing companies, Evolved successfully launched in 2019!
Who is your target market?
Although we aim to become a mass-market product, we currently appeal mostly to the health conscious foodie community, urban professionals and families.
Our brand largely resonates with customers between 5 and 45 (pretty diverse!), while being naturally suited to Vegans and followers of the Paleo diet.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
From my experience, social media can be a really strong sales generation tool, as long as you’re not too ‘selly’. We all tend to switch off when an advert pops up on TV, so we can’t expect our followers to stay engaged with our content if we’re mercilessly hurling Shopify discount codes at them! If you can’t offer value to your audience in ways other than ‘here’s another 20% off’ then I’m sorry to say – your brand is at risk of looking dry and hollow.
On a side note… I’ve noticed Founders that don’t truly believe in their brand, story, product or mission naturally get called out, sooner or later. Founders that are true to their key messages end up gaining more traction because ultimately, customers are great at sniffing out trash.
Being clear, genuine and intentional when you talk to your customers, whether on social media or in person, is hands-down the best marketing tool (and it’s totally free!).
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
I think finding the right level of communication is really important for brands in the 21st Century. Talking from personal experience, I subconsciously build a bit of a grudge against brands that relentlessly email you every day with new and insignificant updates.
Companies feel that they need to ‘fight for your attention’ by shouting louder and talking faster than other companies. Rather than building a relationship and a strong dialogue, they just end up being really annoying.
Having more to say and saying it less often is far more engaging and interesting to me as a potential customer.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
This is by far the most exciting and crazy job you could ever ask for. You’ll wake up not knowing if today will feel like the best or worst day of your life, which makes every day unique and special.
The people I love working with most are the people that feel this energy and get excited by it too. If you’re looking to work with a new design team, consultant, mentor, or agency – you need to explore whether your personalities match up. Sure, you want to surround yourself with people that offer different perspectives, but your underlying passion and excitement for the brand should be something you share with anyone you work with.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
I try my best to keep between a few select platforms (mainly to prevent my brain from exploding), but I do have a ton of software that I rely on! To name a few, Slack plays a big part in team communication.
LinkedIn is a gem for generating new sales leads and finding relevant buyers.
Young Foodies offers a bunch of really useful content and resources for food startups that I often refer to.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
- Delayed gratification – if someone offers you 1 marshmallow now or 3 marshmallows later, you should aim for the 3 marshmallows later. This honestly doesn’t come naturally to me at all, but it’s a valuable lesson that keeps me from making decisions too impulsively (most of the time).
- Be yourself – especially in 2020, simply conforming to your industry’s ‘norm’ is extremely boring. Add your own flavour and personality, and you’re much more likely to stand out.
- Enjoy the process – at least for me, I don’t think I could have lasted these 3 years of development if I didn’t absolutely love every single day of it. I’m still learning to slow down and celebrate those micro-achievements, but I’m working on it.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The process of waking up, putting on a coffee and making some progress towards your mission is unimaginably addictive. Maybe I just really like coffee, or maybe it’s that feeling of doing something meaningful every day. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s an awesome feeling.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Finding a work-life balance is tricky when you just want to spend every waking day working on your start-up. You often naively feel like friends, relationships and family will anchor you down, rather than lift you up, which means you’ll turn down grabbing sushi with a friend or playing Monopoly with your family a lot.
Finding a balance is hard, and can often leave you feeling like you’re letting people down or that you’re missing out on salmon sashimi.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Books I’d recommend:
- Start With Why – Simon Sinek
- 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing – Al Ries & Jack Trout
- Influence – Robert B. Cialdini, PhD
Podcasts I’d recommend:
- On Purpose – Jay Shetty
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
Over the next few years, I’d like Evolved to establish itself as a leading brand in the healthy snacks industry. It’s easier to create a lasting change when you’re at the front than when you’re tucked away somewhere at the back.
For us, this will mean entering supermarket territory in the nearish future, along with branching into other EU marketplaces, which we’re starting to do! The vision and the brand are constantly evolving as we make more progress, so I’m really excited to see where we’ll be in a few years from now.