How We Started a Successful
Health Food, Oils and Supplements Brand
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey Everyone, my name is Amy Moring and I am one of the founders of Hunter & Gather foods. My partner in life, as well as business, is Jeff Webster who is the other co-founder of the business. It’s not always easy living and working with your partner, especially through the COVID-19 lockdown. However, I also know I am very lucky to work with my best friend!
Founded by us both in 2017, we have a very clear mission and purpose for Hunter & Gather as a brand. We exist to provide our tribe with some of the foods, oils and supplements they need to thrive. We are always in pursuit of optimal health and wellbeing.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that our health is of utmost importance to us all. Not just as individuals but as a community, a country and as part of the human race. Our products will always be free from sugars, grains and harmful inflammatory oils. Our products are free from unnecessary chemicals, bulkers or fillers. We are most well-known for our range of avocado oil mayonnaise, but we also have a range of real food supplements too.
The team is made up of 8 of us, with us all working remotely with a team of freelancers. Jeff and I are full time employees of Hunter & Gather.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I am an animal lover through and through! We have a horse and two cats and originally I thought about becoming a vet. I have a BSc degree in Equine and Business Management. Previously, I worked in vets, zoos, stables and even spent time in South Africa on a reserve. This led me to work both for an international equine charity, corporate pet food company and more recently a pet food startup.
Within the corporate pet food world, I learnt about marketing, sales and building supplier relationships. It wasn’t until I joined the start-up that I really got a lesson on how brands and startups work in the UK. This company was led by an amazing woman who supported my learning and development. She was key in encouraging and enabling Jeff and I to start Hunter & Gather alongside our day jobs.
I am also a lifelong coeliac. When Jeff and I met as teenagers, he had no understanding of how food could impact your health. As time went on, Jeff suffered his own stomach problems alongside asthma and acne. We both believed this could be linked to his diet. He undertook lots of research into the Paleo and Keto lifestyles and his health dramatically improved once he cut sugars, grains and inflammatory oils from his diet.
Jeff wanted to give back to this health space and even considered retraining as a doctor. We felt that there were some amazing doctors and health practitioners in the space already and we reflected on the skills we both had together and where else we could have an impact.
We realised that for people to make healthier swaps, they needed healthier products to be able to buy. Together we had the passion to develop Hunter & Gather to champion foods that would challenge the market.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
As a start-up founder, you get comfortable in the uncomfortable. Your boundaries of what you can deal with are ever-expanding. For someone with a logical brain, overcoming the challenges are what we strive for. The strangest feeling is that all the decisions are yours to make. There is no boss or boss of a boss that gives you the strategic direction.
In the beginning, you are the tea maker, the designer, the social media expert, the website creator, the product tester, the finance officer, the bank and everything else in between. Most of the time you do this all unpaid or in your spare time too.
Finance is always a challenge as a fast-growing brand. When you start out, the challenges seem to be around ‘how will I sell this stock/product/service’. But in a product-based business, succeeding at a rapid rate is also a challenge, as your profits from the month before may not cover the stock asset increases that you need if you are growing 000 digits.
Competition can be a challenge, but there are not many ideas that are new. You just need to find something and put your spin on it.
What is more important is focusing on your core values and principles. This will set you apart from your competition. Have a think about why you buy a particular branded product. It may be that you like the branding, taste, ethos or even what it adds to you as a person.
Our tribe at Hunter & Gather buy our health products as they trust in us to have integrity and quality. Also, we fit their lifestyle requirements. When embarking on your journey, it is all very exciting – your family and friends will no doubt be supportive. But this only goes so far if they work a 9-5 life. They may not understand the risks, tasks and challenges that you will come up against.
It is worth joining some social groups that are specific to your sector, or reaching out and finding a mentor who you can have these honest and open conversations with. I am lucky that Jeff and I know the challenges each other faces and we can iron them out together. If you don’t have a co-founder, you could consider finding someone that has skills that you lack.
Who is your target market?
A broad target market is not ideal at the beginning. Over time, this evolves as the brand grows in size.
When we first started we purely targeted Paleo & Keto, followers. This group understood who we are and what we were about instantly. They understood our proposition without any extra education. They were our early adopters. As we developed, we also realised that we were suitable for many health and lifestyle requirements. These include coeliacs, fodmap, sugar-free, diabetics, those with yeast allergies and those with mustard and egg white allergies.
Our initial target market has now grown significantly. We sell to a vast range of stores, from farm shops, localised delis, Selfridges, Whole Foods, Amazon, Ocado as well as abroad. We see that our consumers buy our products for many different reasons too.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
For us, it’s about education and building a tribe. A lot of our content is not “selling” or product based. We share recipes, we share movement tips, we share workouts, we share positive quotes. This is all in the pursuit of optimal health. We believe that food is just one of the pillars of health. Movement, minimal screen time and good quality sleep are also important.
Our followers respect us more for providing them with free engaging content – that doesn’t just say “BUY MY STUFF”. We also send a weekly newsletter which keeps our followers up to date with new information, offers, blogs, research or our favourite finds too. We have roughly 54500 subscribers, which is great.
Look at awards too, we have been very lucky to have won some amazing awards which has given us PR and credibility as a brand. We were recently crowned London’s “Young Entrepreneurs Of The Year 2020” at the FSB awards ceremony in Horse Guards Parade London. The FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards recognise and celebrate the huge contribution that smaller businesses and the self-employed make to the UK.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Our belief is that having great customer service, a delicious product and an easy repurchase system is key in retaining customers. We have recently added a subscribe and save option to our website, where we will arrange the delivery and payment on regular intervals for the shopper – saving them having to log on and add items to their cart.
We don’t have any horrible hidden Ts & Cs. Our customers can pause, stop or change the subscription at any time and as a thank you for being a loyal shopper, they receive 10% off every single order.
When it comes to retail, getting products onto a shelf is a mighty battle and can take a long time. Yet this is only the start – you need to ensure that people will buy the products from the store too. Is your pricing right, do these shoppers know enough about you? It can take time and I would encourage to support any instore listings with either a promotion, display or sampling staff (especially in Whole Foods).
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
We are very pro-remote working and flexible working. That’s why we utilise freelancers as we all work from home (which has been handy during the lockdown). Not only does this save on unnecessary overheads but we believe in a good work-life balance. We ensure that we frequently touch base with our freelancers and make them feel part of the team too.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
Take your time in the early days to learn each tool inside and out rather than handing over to someone else. Get the knowledge yourself so you can oversee this as you grow. Set the foundations up early so you have the tools in place to grow. If you are using Excel to place orders or make note of invoices – this is not scaleable.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
We would not have done anything differently, as it has been a great journey to date. We would have maybe had a clearer strategy in place as to where, what and when we want to sell the products into however this has organically developed over time. What we would advise is that with certain things, you will never have something perfect before launch – if you have, you have probably waited too long.
When it comes to designs, these change, recipes can be further developed. It is worth getting out and sampling or selling your product and gaining feedback so you can tweak to what the customers want, rather than what you think they want.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Other than overcoming challenges and constantly being stretched (which I love), flexibility of time is key. If you have other passions or hobbies if you are strict with your time management you have the flexibility to go out in the middle of the day to do your hobby – or even travel.
We were able to travel to New Zealand and Australia for 6 weeks to go for a friend’s wedding last year and still run the business remotely. There are not many jobs where you are your partner will have the flexibility to do this.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Loneliness can be a problem, especially if you are a sole founder. Friends and family do not understand how you are not loaded with money with the growth of the business or why you are constantly at awards evenings. This is all part of the journey and there are some amazing support groups around to help with this – such as Young Foodies or Bread and Jam.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
The Purple Cow by Seth Godin – this book is great for branding advice and how to stand out 4 hour work week – enables you to reflect on what work is truly important. Excel training – if you don’t know how to do pivot tables or Vlookups, learn some key Excel skills as this will save you a ton of time. Udemy courses – SEO training and website building training are useful in the early days if you plan to have an e-commerce site.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
In 2-3 years from now, we do see ourselves with a Hunter & Gather office that we will utilise as a team base, with remote at-home workers still. We will be available nationwide in at least one major grocery retailer as well as having broadened our reach internationally via retail stores and online.
We will continue to support our local independent channels and bring out lots of products that challenge the market. Our products will always be sugar, grain and seed/veg oil-free!