I started Hunter & Gather in 2017 with my partner Jeff where our business organically grew out of our own needs. I am a lifelong Coeliac meaning I spend huge amounts of time analyzing the ingredient lists on everything I eat. Jeff had childhood asthma and horrendous acne. He began experimenting with his diet by removing sugars, grains and inflammatory oils from his diet as a teenager and his health and well-being improved significantly.
We provide products that are always free from sugars, grains/gluten and inflammatory seed or vegetable oils.
How did you fund the business initially?
We initially funded the business from our savings - this paid for branding, website creation and first few runs of product. After this, we received SEIS pre-seed investment from the Start-Up Funding Club in collaboration with the Grocery Accelerator - which has enabled expansion of the business into new markets, retailers and new product development.
How did you get your first three sales?
I remember our first 3 sales very well as we were jumping around our living room with joy! Our initial production run was just 300 jars our first product - the classic Avocado Oil Mayonnaise. I remember thinking that if we sold these within the use-by date, then we would be happy. We listed it on our website and within hours we had made our first sale to a stranger... then the orders just kept coming and coming. We hit up Facebook groups that were really relevant to our innovator consumer group (Keto and Paleo). We just openly explained what we had created and if it was ok to share on the group .. this really drived those first sales to our website. We were also very lucky to have a famous celebrity find us on Instagram who was also interested in Keto and they shared about our product on their Instagram grid.
This ensured sales started rolling in, and with word of mouth spreading - we soon realised we needed to book in another production run and find a warehouse asap!
What are your top marketing channels?
Facebook and social media is a super tool for reaching the first customers, the communities that exist in these platforms are huge. We recommend reaching out to key page admins to see if they will allow you to promote your products within the group - or even offer them free products as a giveaway. Just make sure the groups make sense for your product range - work out who your product is for and then find out where those types of people spend their time.
The journey of Hunter & Gather started long before we created a product however. It took our entire lives to date of learning and shaping our personal values and needs. However, since launching Hunter & Gather in 2017 it feels like a rocket jet has gone off in terms of growth, listings and the consumer need for our product range - which is amazing.
We knew that we wanted these products but at the time we did not know how big the market was for these products. Since then we have been able to find a lot of insightful data and it turns out that we are selling to a multi-million, potentially even billion-dollar industry within the UK. Health and wellness industry in the UK along in 2018 was worth £21 Billion with mayonnaise at £156.9 Million.
How do you split up the work?
I (Amy) head up sales and marketing and have previously worked in the natural pet food industry managing everything from Independents, Wholesalers up to leading National Accounts. Jeff was previously a Quantity Surveyor and is at home with numbers, supply chain, and procurement. Jeff is a big-picture thinker and I make sure everything is executed well - together we think we make a dynamic team that gets things done.
What is it like working together and being in a relationship?
We are partners in life as well as business and are teenage sweethearts - crikey! Working together is great however as we have a balance of skills and are not afraid to talk openly to each other. We initially built a team of freelancers using sites like Upwork and this has been amazing for us.
We are keen to ensure we have a good work-life balance and also that we only focus on the key things that will step change the business rather than being distracted. This focus has allowed us to grow the business rapidly and we expect sales of over £1.5 Million in 2020 - with just the two of us running it! We utilise the key skills of freelancers, who work remotely - this avoids the need for a fancy office in the early stages of growth and enables us to reinvestment cash into marketing because we have low overheads.
Who is your target demographic?
Our customers are great at providing honest feedback and always push us to think of innovative ideas, new content and they celebrate with us when we get a new stockist or award.
Our target demographic is currently women aged 35-65 who understand the importance of health and wellness. They may have suffered from illness and/or allergies and they are seeking healthier alternatives to what is currently available. We do however have customers across demographics, ages and genders and we welcome all.
Have you had and funny customer support requests?
A memorable order was an urgent request for a Yacht company who had a prestigious customer saying that our mayonnaise must go on their sailing trip. We are pleased to say that some jars of our classic mayo did indeed set sail and we only wish we knew where it was they travelled!
What motivated you to start your own business?
We were motivated to start Hunter & Gather through our own personal need for real food products. Jeff had previously been employed straight from University into a grad role at a Top London Quantity Surveyors and after completing his graduate role, was set for life in the eyes of most - however he had felt the urge to follow his passions in the Real Food, Keto/Paleo space and even considered retraining as a doctor. Jeff’s skills in procurement and managing numbers is fundamental for Hunter & Gather as well as his passion for Real Food and the health and wellness industry in general.
My journey led me through various roles in the animal sector, Insurance, Welfare/Charity and Sales in a Corporate and more recently a Natural Pet food Brand where I honed my knowledge of nutrition, marketing, sales and people management. This has been key in the tone of voice, marketing style and sales developments we’ve created for Hunter & Gather in a relatively short period of time.
What are your goals with Hunter & Gather?
We want to bring healthy, nutritionally dense products to suit those following multiple different diets or lifestyles - Paleo, Keto, Low Carb, Banting, Coeliac, Gluten Free, Diabetics, Vegans, AIP, FODMAP and many more. Our current products include a range of Avocado oil Mayonnaise, Allergen & Egg Free Mayo (MAYOCADO), Extra Virgin Avocado Oils, MCT coconut oil and Collagen Peptides.
Our four core values are Quality, Transparency, Real Food and Sustainability - Hunter & Gather products have become a sign of prestigious and delicious health products that consumers can trust. By using glass jars, bottles and fully compostable bags, we limit plastic in all that they do (including using paper packing tape too!).
We ensure the highest possible quality when it comes to the sourcing of raw ingredients and only use the finest British Free Range Eggs from the St Ewe Farms in Cornwall. We also visited our farmers in Kenya where we purchase our avocados. We buy fruit that would otherwise be wasted from export as they are wonky, discoloured or too small. None of these factors have any impact on the quality or taste of the final product. By buying these fruits we avoid food waste, provide extra income for farmers and still produce a delicious award-winning product.
What did your families think when you told them you were going to set up a business?
We believe our families initially thought that this was just going to be a side business and that we would be selling products on a market stall. Once we realized there were others that wanted our products we dreamed big. Today, we are exporting to U.A.E, Iceland, Germany, Slovenia, Poland and we are even having discussions with major retailers as far as New Zealand.
What advice would you have for other people starting a business?
Our advice when starting a business is that it is ok if everything is not perfect, the design and even the recipe of your food product can continue to evolve and develop as you gain customer feedback. This early customer feedback will really shape how your business develops and you should have your eyes and ears open to soak up as much feedback as possible.
You learn very quickly that challenges and amazing news will jump out of the woodwork and surprise you. Being agile, is key and jumping on key opportunities and also resolving challenges or set backs swiftly is important. Just remember a challenge is just a roadblock, that can be overcome - you just need to try and resolve it as quickly and as well as possible so you can continue on your journey.
When growing rapidly as a business it can be deceiving how important cash flow is. If you are constantly growing sales, then you will forever be on the back-foot in terms of cash flow. Speak to your bank and see if you can utilise overdraft facilities or maybe even get a low interest loan. There are also companies that do gap financing of invoices, to enable you to obtain funds faster than waiting for the customer to pay - especially if their payment terms are 60 or even 90 days!
What apps could your business not run without?
We utilise lot’s of different Apps to support our business growth with limited staff members.
Canva - for marketing artwork and creating free imagery, GIFS etc for social media
Moneypenny - A service that has a “real” human answer your calls and direct them through to you or take a message/email. This is perfect for screening sales calls that can take up a lot of your time as a Founder.
Square - This is neat card payment device and is ideal for taking payments at shows, events etc
Trello - A Project Managers dream, this is a super way to keep notes of new stockists, live projects and potential leads.
What does the future look like?
We have a whole list of new products we would love to create! We are currently working on some new products that we are very excited to share soon. Keep your eyes peeled at the end of 2019 for some exciting announcements!
In 5 years, we see Hunter & Gather as a leader in sugar free and Keto spaces with products listed in major supermarkets within the UK as well as being exported to New Zealand, Australia, America and Europe.
Our business revenue projection for 2020 is £1.5 Million in year 3. Our growth since launch has been triple digits each year.
Would you ever sell the business?
As a business we are really keen to continue engaging with our customer base, create exciting new products, as well as develop our retail listings. We would only consider selling Hunter & Gather if we felt that we had found the right partner who would be keen for us to stay involved and they had the expertise to enable Hunter & Gather to go further than we can take it alone.
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