The Investibles: Nom Foods' super tasty nutritious snacks

Nom Foods
Nom Foods
Christopher Goodfellow
Editor
Sift Media
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Nom bars was started in the kitchen at founder Steph Croft-Simon's home. The nutrition bars proved popular with friends and family, and the startup quickly launched into retailers like Whole Foods. 

Here Croft-Simon talks about hte challenges new food businesses face, how they've been build the brand on a minimal marketing budget and the trials of starting up on your own.

Name: Steph Croft-Simon
Company: Nom Foods
Date established: April 2013
Website: www.nomfoods.co.uk
Twitter: @nom_foods

1. What is your investment status?

Nom Foods secured £142,000 investment through Crowdcube in May 2015.

2. Describe your business in one paragraph; what’s its vision and what problem does it solve?

Nom Foods is an ethical foods business, making organic and nutritious snacks for people who want to eat well, on the go. Nom products are special because of their innovative combinations of super food ingredients, creating tastes and textures which can be lacking from other 'free from...' and health foods. 

They’re organic, vegan and made with premium quality, fair trade and ethical ingredients. Both the bars and popcorn were the first to market to contain coconut oil as a key ingredient.

3. How did you come up with the idea for your business?

I developed severe allergies while at university, so Nom was born out of a fruitless search for easily accessible foods which were tasty, but didn’t contain any refined sugars and nasties.  I really believe in adding value to a diet. Actively eating good, nutritious stuff, rather than simply cutting out the bad!

They soon became popular with family and friends and after only a few months, they launched into Planet Organic, Whole Foods and many more.

I wanted to make free-from foods which were appealing to everyone, not just those with an allergy or intolerance. Eating healthily is easy if you’re at home and have access to ingredients and cooking facilities, but eating nutritious food on the go is a lot harder. I knew that there was a gap in the market for products which could combine health, taste and convenience – so I started making Nom bars in the kitchen at home. 

They soon became popular with family and friends and after only a few months, they launched into Planet Organic, Whole Foods and many more.

4. What’s your addressable market?

When I launched the brand, all the market research I conducted suggested that our bars would be perfect for gym goers, athletes and exercise enthusiasts, because of their slow release energy and lack of refined sugars. This is true, all of our products are hugely popular with the health and fitness market, but the beauty of our products is that they fit perfectly into lots of markets. Many people enjoy our products; those with allergy or intolerance, children, adults, office snackers and those travelling – they’re stocked in bars, vending machines, hotels, gyms and cafes, as well as the health food stores.  

5. What’s great about your team and do you have a mentor?

For the first two and a half years, I didn’t have a team! I was running the business alone, with some occasional help with big orders from friends and family. The great thing about that was that I was able to really hone in on what I needed in terms of staff. What roles they should take and skill sets it would benefit the business for them to have.

Running a business alone can be lonely and it’s important to have people you can bounce ideas off, to keep you focused on an overall direction and strategy.

I don’t have an official mentor, but I’m really lucky in that I come from a family who can all offer different perspectives/advice, whether it’s financial, strategy or marketing related. I think that’s really important. 

Running a business alone can be lonely and it’s important to have people you can bounce ideas off, to keep you focused on an overall direction and strategy, rather than getting too bogged down in the day-to-day details.

6. What key challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Manufacturing – when you come up with a first to market product, it’s often hard to find an established factory who can re-create the product to match what you’ve made in your kitchen! Especially when you’re asking for additional requirements from the factory, for example. organic or gluten free. Quality Control is so important, so there’s no room for error. It’s definitely good to always be assessing your options with regards to manufacturing – and to make sure you’re spreading your risk.

Funding – obviously finding funding for a startup can be a real challenge. If you have no previous experience with investment, financial forecasting and speaking to potential investors, it can be quite daunting choosing the right option! I chose to crowdfund my business and overcame this by asking for help and advice from brands that had crowdfunded before.

Staff – It can be hard to find employees that understand the startup mentality and how working in a small business is different to working for a large company. It was also hard for me to decide what kind of team I wanted to build and pin down exactly what skills were needed to drive the business forward.

7. How have you funded your startup and why did you choose this route?

For the first two years, the business was funded by personal savings and also a small startup loan from the bank. This was enough to get the products branded and shelf-ready begin manufacturing in-house with some machinery. 

Nom was born out of a fruitless search for easily accessible foods which were tasty, but didn’t contain any refined sugars and nasties.

In May 2015, Nom Foods secured £142,000 via crowdfunding. I thought long and hard about what the best option was with regards to funding. In the end, I decided that having (what turned out to be) 142 investors on board who are interested in, talking about and buying our products was a brilliant marketing opportunity as well as achieving the actual funds.

8. How do you market your business and how successful has it been so far?

Nom has grown very organically. The brand has come very far on a tiny marketing and PR budget. There are lots of clever ways of getting coverage and exposure without spending too much money. Social media has been crucial in doing this. Bloggers and reviewers are always willing to give an honest opinion of a product and share it with their followers. 

Advertising through social media is also relatively low cost and can have a brilliant reach – allowing a brand to be very specific in terms of the audience targeted. 

We also donate a certain amount of product samples for goody bags, charity events, sports matches etc. This is great exposure and quite often a way of gaining new customers. Finally, in-store and trade show sampling is a great way of getting the product in people’s hands and allowing them to ask any questions they may have.

9. What are your plans for the future?

My plans for nom’s future involve so many exciting things. Growing the team, expanding product ranges, working with some of the larger retailers and making nom products available to as many people as possible. 

My real strength and passion lies in creating innovative products, which taste great, then telling people all about them – I hope to be able to spend more time doing that!

10. If you started again, is there anything you would do differently?

I would think twice about going it alone for so long! You have to wear so many hats as a small business owner and sometimes that can be difficult. If I started again, I would ask for help more!    

11. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs that are starting a business?

Don’t wait for the right time, because there might never be one! If you think you have a good idea, you’ve done proper market research, you have a solid business plan and you really believe in it, go for it. Get in there before someone else takes your idea and runs with it! 

It’s not easy – so make sure you have a good support network around you. Having your own business can be exhausting, thankless and isolating, so it’s really important that you have people around you who believe in what you’re doing.

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