A taste of success

Features Posted 13/03/23
Since launching in 2020, free-from snack brand Crave has really hit the ground running. We chat to founder Rob Brice to hear all about the startup’s journey so far…

Rob, where did the idea and inspiration for Crave come from?

“I was working as a food consultant at Tesco at the time, heading up ‘free from’ for them. I was getting disillusioned at all of the new free from and vegan products to the market that were all about health but not really focussed on taste. Some were awful! I saw there was a gap for normal everyday food products that people love but weren’t available to free from and vegan customers.”

Can you tell us about your free-from snack range?

“We have set out to recreate nostalgic products that everyone loves. Our snacks – Pickled Onion Monster Feet and Smokey Flavoured Streakers – are a great example of this, but also how we make sure that our CRAVE products taste as good, if not better, than their standard equivalents. We want to be able to offer people products that they have been missing out on!”

You recently won Aldi’s Next Big Thing’s ‘Store Cupboard’ episode! Congratulations. How was that experience for you and what do you hope to take away from it?

“Winning one of the categories of Channel 4’s Aldi’s Next Big Thing TV competition has been incredible! We entered not thinking we would actually get anywhere as they were looking for smaller, more high-end producers and brands, but we kept on going! It has been an amazing experience from start to finish.

“Slightly surreal to see yourself on TV, but great exposure for the brand. We can’t buy that sort of exposure as a startup, and to get a listing and hopefully an ongoing relationship with Aldi too – has been amazing.

“It was great to take away that Aldi and the team thought our product was good enough to go out to the masses! We weren’t in a specific vegan and free from category and so that really endorses what have done and how we are doing it.”

What other listings have you secured since launching?

“We are currently stocked in Asda stores for the two snacks and also launching in Ocado towards the end of January. We’ve been busy developing new products for 2023, which will hit another major retailer in April of this year.”

How has your journey as a startup business been? Can you tell us about any challenges you’ve faced?

“It’s a rollercoaster from start to finish. There have been numerous occasions where I have thought about giving up. Crave was self-funded up until about six months ago and so it meant keeping the other job going whilst I ploughed everything into Crave – even money for my house renovation.

“It was hard to get traction in the early days and it’s a real chicken and egg scenario. You don’t have the funds to produce products to show people but need to somehow have products to bring to life and prove the market and your developments. It can occasionally be quite disheartening.

“There have been lots of times when I have thought: is it all really worth it? The first big achievement was securing the investment as that has changed what we can do and how we do it, but a massive achievement has been the Aldi win and listings in Asda, as well as Ocado.”

What can we expect from Crave in 2023?

“New products! We have been doing what we do best and developed some super exciting products that aren’t snacks. I can’t wait for them to hit the shelves this year. We’re also hoping to get some traction with some more of the big UK retailers to bring Crave to the masses.”

Do you have any advice for likeminded and aspiring startups, particularly those in the snack sector?

“Don’t give up would definitely be my advice. Be bold, be brave, be different and believe. You need to have a USP and stand out from the crowd. It’s a super tough industry. Just because someone is going in one direction, doesn’t mean you have to.

“Also, stay true to your vision and beliefs. When I was starting out, I asked for some advice from a founder at a huge UK disruptor brand. He said to scrap my design and put all my budget into reshaping what CRAVE looked like… I didn’t do it (I very nearly did) and everyone has complimented us on our really strong and stand out branding. So believe in your brand, your product and yourself.”

You can find out more about Crave here.

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