The number of women-owned businesses is rising, but the CPG industry needs to be providing more support to female-founded food, drink and beauty brands.
With this in mind, Hooley Brown has created a countdown of 18 awesome companies launched by women – to celebrate the outstanding female talent in our sector:
- Pip & Nut
Founder: Pip Murray
Pip & Nut was initially a passion project, as founder and CEO, Pip Murray made nut butters for her own enjoyment. She began selling them at London’s Maltby Street Market to see if her hobby could translate into a business – and the growth trajectory has continued ever since.
Today, Pip & Nut is the UK’s fastest-growing nut butter brand and is stocked in over 7,000 stores. And the company backs up its premium products with solid principles: Pip & Nut was certified as a B-Corp in 2019 and donates a jar of peanut butter to Hackney Food Bank for every product purchased via its website.
Founder: Chika Russell
Chika Russell spotted an opportunity to combine her enthusiasm for African street food with her entrepreneurial spirit when she saw that African food was under-represented in the UK snack market.
She left her job in finance to develop Chika’s, sourcing authentic ingredients from Nigeria, including Epa, a variety of small, intensely flavoured peanuts.
2021 was a landmark year for Chika’s Foods, as Chika received £9.8 million investment to continue growing her vibrant brand.
“Less than 10 per cent of private equity funding goes to female entrepreneurs – and less than one per cent goes to women like myself who are from black, Asian and other ethnic minority backgrounds. So it’s a huge deal to secure such a significant investment,” she told This Is Money. “Plus, around 70 per cent of my workforce in Nigeria are female, so more women in Nigeria will have jobs as a result of the investment.”
Co-Founder: Annie Morris
The cereal market has come a long way from sugar-laden breakfast foods targeted chiefly at children. Cereal has had a grown-up glow up, with ‘natural and wholesome’ products notching up more than £281 million in sales last year, according to Kantar data.
One brand at the forefront of this shift is Spoon, a plant-based, gluten-free granola producer co-founded by self-confessed cereal addict, Annie Morris. “The idea for Spoon came to me whilst eating my morning bowl of cereal at work,” Annie shares on Spoon’s website. “Wouldn’t it be cool to make breakfast cereal exciting again?”
Spoon focuses on high-quality ingredients and UK-based small batch production, developing mouth-watering flavours including apple + almond butter and dark chocolate, almond and lime. The brand has already received financial backing after an appearance on the BBC TV show Dragons’ Den and raised more than £250,000 in a funding campaign the same year.
4. Hunter & Gather
Co-Founder: Amy Moring
As a lifelong coeliac, Amy Moring has always been interested in the relationship between food and health, and she decided to turn that passion into a business with the support of her husband, Jeff.
Hunter & Gather’s range of oils, sauces and condiments are paleo and keto-friendly, as well as being gluten-free. Its flagship avocado mayonnaise sold out within days of its first production run, as consumers connected with the brand’s focus on premium healthy ingredients.
This focus on creating a wellness brand has also motivated Hunter & Gather to move into supplements, producing MCT oil, collagen protein powder, and kidney, liver and heart capsules.
5. The Marshmallowist
Founder: Oonagh Simms
The confectionary market is booming at the moment, and as the UK’s first producer of gourmet marshmallows, The Marshmallowist is benefiting from this upward curve.
Founder Oonagh Simms trained as a chocolatier in Paris but started her business at London’s Portobello Road market, producing artisan marshmallows made with premium ingredients.
As Oonagh expanded The Marshmallowist into a fully-fledged retail business, she invested in a complete packaging redesign, to ensure the brand’s visual identity would catch customers’ eyes across stores, including Selfridges, Harrods and John Lewis.
The Marshmallowist isn’t style over substance, however; its unusual flavour combinations include passion fruit & ginger and bloody Mary cocktail. The brand even produces seasonal flavours, including Christmas pudding marshmallows, which were featured on the Hairy Bikers’ festive TV special in 2021.
6. Two Brooks
Co-Founder: Francesca Bruni
A few years ago, health food and alcohol were two disparate sectors. But consumer desire for a tipple that doesn’t tip the scales in the wrong direction has grown significantly. Francesca Bruni – alongside her brother, Fabio – are tapping into this trend with Two Brooks alcoholic sparkling waters.
“After seeing the growing interest in the hard seltzer category during a business trip made to the US, my brother and I decided the emergence of the category was the perfect opportunity to create a business around a product we love,” Francesca told The Grocer.
Two Brooks’ hard seltzer products have no added sugars and are naturally low in calories. They’re currently available in three flavours: lime cooler, mango hi-ball and passion star. Francesca is focused on building Two Brooks’ UK presence initially, while laying the foundations for international growth.
Founder: KaiYen Mai
While KaiYen Mai’s family have been making jerky for decades (they own the Hsin Tung Yang food service company), it was only when looking at her nutritional needs for a climbing trip to Mount Kilimanjaro that she decided to turn their natural, flavoursome recipes into a standalone business.
Fusion Jerky uses Asian-style cooking methods to create bold flavour, combined with colourful packaging. KaiYen is continually innovating the brand to grow its share in the increasingly popular meat snack market; the company now produces chicken and pork jerky alongside beef, with a range of different seasonings.
8. Jack & Bry
Founder: Bryony Tinn-Disbury
With the vegan and plant-based food market generating record sales, the popularity of jackfruit is surging. Jack & Bry is capitalising on this trend with its range of gourmet plant-based ‘meats’ made from jackfruit.
The ‘Bry’ of Jack & Bry is company founder Bryony Tinn-Disbury, who developed a jackfruit-based alternative to pepperoni after being inspired by her father’s pizza box business. Within a year, Jack & Bry was supplying its plant-based pepperoni to more than 850 pizza restaurant sites across the UK and manufacturers in Europe.
Following this success, Bryony began looking at other ways to utilise jackfruit – expanding Jack & Bry’s product range to include sausages, burgers, ham and mince for both the hospitality and retail market.
9. Urban Cordial
Founder: Natasha Steele
Urban Cordial has taken two consumer behaviour trends – the shift towards lower alcohol consumption and a greater desire for sustainability – and created the springboard for a successful drinks business.
The brand was inspired by founder Natasha Steele’s love for making her own fruit cordials, using ingredients foraged from her allotment. After selling them locally, she scaled-up her small batch production to create a range of nationally sold surplus fruit drink concentrate.
To date, Urban Cordial has saved more than 100 tonnes of fruit from going into landfill. And any pulp left from the juicing process is distributed to local farms as animal feed, making the production process zero waste!
10. Siete Family Foods
Co-Founder: Veronica Garza
After suffering from several debilitating autoimmune conditions in childhood, Siete founder, Veronica Garza, decided to adopt an anti-inflammatory, grain-free diet. But while this change improved her health, she missed the Mexican-American foods that were a staple of her family’s diet.
Rather than giving them up for good, Veronica decided to develop her own grain-free tortillas, and Siete Family Foods was born.
Today, Siete produces a range of Mexican influenced products including tortillas, taco shells, chips, sauces and churros. 2021 was the company’s most successful year to date, with revenue increasing by 30% and retail sales passing the $200 million mark.
Siete has also just inked a deal with US burrito chain Freebirds to provide gluten-free tortillas to their restaurant network.
Founder: Lucy Wolfenden
While the pandemic proved difficult for the CPG industry, it also created impressive innovations. And one of the brands to launch during lockdown was the independent spiced rum business, Decorrum.
Founder Lucy Wolfenden created the brand to bring a stylish, female-focused rum brand to market – as most rums are primarily marketed to men. Decorrum combines smart art deco branding with a focus on organically sourced, natural ingredients; its recipe contains honey from bees kept at Manchester Printworks.
12. Squirrel Sisters
Co-Founders: Gracie & Sophie Tyrrell
When Sophie Tyrell was diagnosed with a serious heart condition in 2015, she decided to make some major lifestyle changes to support her health, including giving up sugar. With no sugar-free convenience snacks readily available, she started making her own snack bars. And everything snowballed from there.
Fast forward to 2022, and Squirrel Sisters is the UK’s only snack brand whose entire range has no added sugar. Its products (which are all vegan and gluten-free) are available in over 2,000 stores nationwide, in retailers such as Holland and Barrett, Waitrose and Whole Foods.
Squirrel Sisters has also launched Britain’s first no added sugar online shop to help consumers find healthier snacks that still taste good.
13. Absolute Collagen
Founder: Maxine Laceby
Absolute Collagen is a lesson in female entrepreneurship and in starting a business at any age. Maxine Laceby was 50 when she started the brand – after exploring the anti-ageing and skincare benefits of collagen consumption.
When her homemade broths proved popular with friends and neighbours, Maxine scaled up her ambitions. “I remortgaged my house and took out £16,000 so I could self-fund turning my broth into a beauty supplement, as no bank would lend me the money,” she told Mirror Online. “It was a risk I was prepared to take – if it all failed, we’d just have to move. I had a product that worked, I just needed to work out how to mass-produce it, package it and sell it.”
Within two years of launching, Absolute Collagen had won the Editor’s Choice Award at the Beauty Shortlist Awards, The CEW Beauty Award for best new supplement, and twice been nominated for the GLOBAL Beauty Awards.
In 2021, another female powerhouse joined the Absolute Collagen brand: former Arcadia Group, Marks & Spencer and Amazon senior leader, Frances Russell, was appointed CEO.
Co-Founders: Constance Jablonski and Maggie Frerejean-Taittinger
The alcohol-free drinks market is going from strength to strength, and French Bloom is one brand determined to ensure that consumers don’t have to choose between a healthy lifestyle and enjoyable flavours.
Founders, Constance Jablonski and Maggie Frerejean-Taittinger, are an international model and a self-proclaimed foodie, respectively. The long-time friends were united by wanting to indulge their Gallic passion for good wine without the consequences of consuming alcohol.
French Bloom has seen the rapid sophistication of the non-alcoholic beer market and wants to accelerate the same path for alcohol-free wine.
“I tried alcohol-free beers ten years ago and the industry has continued to make terrific progress. Wine is just starting that trajectory and that is why we are so confident about French Bloom,” Maggie told City AM. “To have created something fully organic, fully alcohol-free, with such an elegant taste is a feat we are proud of.”
Founder: Hannah Carter
Cake-lover Hannah Carter didn’t feel comfortable that 60% of the world’s eggs are produced in industrial systems. So she set out to develop a vegan alternative to eggs – and created Oggs.
Oggs’ mission is to create plant-based alternatives to everyday foods without sacrificing good taste. After developing an aquafaba egg alternative, the brand branched out into bakery products, making vegan Victoria sponge, chocolate fudge and cupcakes.
In February 2022, Oggs received a major boost when plant-based foods supplier Upfield bought a minority stake in the company to facilitate European and US expansion opportunities.
16. Double Dutch
Co-Founders: Raissa and Joyce de Haas
The Netherlands is the birthplace of gin, but twins Raissa and Joyce de Haas were frustrated that they couldn’t pair locally distilled spirits with good quality mixers. So they started to make them from scratch.
Double Dutch combines premium ingredients with unusual flavours, including pomegranate & basil tonic water and cucumber & watermelon tonic water. The siblings completed a master’s degree in technology entrepreneurship to drive business growth, receiving pivotal seed funding as an award for producing the best dissertation in their year.
Today, Double Dutch’s product range has expanded to include further high-end mixers such as bloody Mary soda and ginger beer. And the brand now has financial backing from Heineken, which secured a 10% minority stake in 2020.
The bright lights of the USA are the Double Dutch’s next milestone: Total Beverage Solution has signed a deal to import its tonic waters and mixers to North America, “supporting the business’s medium-term ambition of representing more brands in the “better for you” category of the beverage sector,” according to Bevnet.
Founder: Freya Twigden
The craft beverage market is diversifying year on year, and Fix8 has ensured that kombucha is part of that mix.
Founder, Freya Twigden, developed a love for fermenting while living in Shanghai before travelling the world to indulge her passion. She eventually settled in Berkeley, California, interning at a pickle shop to learn more about the process behind kombucha creation, which then led to her launching Fix8.
The pandemic has made trading conditions difficult for many start-up brands. Although Freya secured retail distribution deals with Selfridges and Whole Foods, a lack of mainstream supermarket presence impacted Fix8’s out-of-home sales strategy. She pivoted into D2C sales during lockdown, launching kombucha homebrew kits. “If you were targeting the out-of-home market it evaporated overnight so you had to diversify,” Freya told The Grocer.
After a tense period for business cash flow, Fix8 was sold to Global Tea in November 2021 – securing its future as the food and beverage market normalises post-pandemic.
18. The Gut Stuff
Co-Founders: Lisa and Alana MacFarlane (The Mac Twins)
The Mac Twins are best known to many people as DJs and radio presenters, but they are also prominent spokespeople in the world of gut health.
After doing (in their words) ‘every fad diet under the sun’, Lisa and Alana MacFarlane took part in an experiment for the British Gut Project. This ignited an interest in digestive health that led them to create The Gut Stuff, an online community designed to educate people on the relationship between our gut health and our overall wellbeing. “People see health as being ill, and they see wellness as this thing that Gwyneth Paltrow talks about, when actually they’re two of the same thing,” Alana told Happiful.
In 2020, The Mac Twins decided to enter the snack market, launching Good Fibrations: a range of high fibre snack bars.
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