How three food-based businesses bounced back from adversity
Posted: Fri 12th Nov 2021
Running a business is rarely plain sailing at the best of times, particularly when a global pandemic is thrown into the mix.
Wholey Moly, The Pished Fish and Coldpress, three taste-bud-tickling enterprises, were faced with potentially terminal challenges – from the onset of Covid-19 to battling gigantic competitors within their respective industries.
And yet, all three businesses are now thriving. Just how did they bounce back from such troublesome adversity?
Wholey Moly was born from a deep-rooted frustration that biscuits had historically been selling themselves short - overlooking their potential to be so much more that a quick-fix, sugary treat.
Husband and wife team, Meenesh & Parul, were two city types constantly exasperated by the dearth of honest, healthier living snacks that existed within their office vending machines, meeting rooms and canteens to tackle the inevitable mid-morning & afternoon energy slumps.
Why couldn’t great taste and good nutrition operate in tandem? Why couldn’t biscuits be made from beautifully balanced recipes, be jam-packed with 100% natural ingredients and contain 50% less sugar than everyday alternatives.
Wholey Moly’s ‘cookies with benefits’ were trialled at farmers’ markets and received a resounding thumbs up. Whilst there’s never a good time to launch a NEW, bright-eyed food range, Meenesh & Parul felt encouraged by consumer feedback so decided to back their crumbly hunch, withdraw their hard-earned earnings and unleash their ‘inner’ Alan Sugars.
Prestige listings such as Selfridges, Daylesford, As Nature Intended and Wholefoods quickly materialised as Wholey Moly’s unique ‘feed the craving without misbehaving’ message resonated loudly among such historically overlooked ‘food minorities’ as coeliacs, vegans & the good gut health community.
The pandemic chose to strike at just the wrong time - the exact moment Wholey Moly was due to debut in a tranche of influential retailers whilst scaling-up in others. Overnight retail was restricted to essential lines only and with only a rudimentary online offer.
Yet, far from throwing in the towel, Parul & Meenesh used this unplanned ‘thinking time’ to revisit various weaknesses in their range: the lack of a pistachio offer, the lack of a credible website, the failure of their packaging not being recyclable and insufficient indulgence (swapping out cacao for chocolate).
Today, Wholey Moly is on the move, courtesy of a far-reaching trial in Sainsbury’s, an Ocado listing, booming Amazon sales, new export, airline & foodservice openings and renewed sense of self-belief. The mood of the nation has changed forever and #healthiersnacking is in the ascendancy.
Be sure to check out Wholey Moly and their broad range of delicious products!
The Pished Fish
Triumph over adversity is without doubt one of the most over-used marketing phrases currently in circulation, but in the case of The Pished Fish, the saying fits like a glove!
Here is an authentic, artisanal Sussex-based business that forged its reputation in booze-infused Scottish salmon with such magnificent culinary creations as Sozzled Santa, The Augustus Gloop, Erik the Red, Gilltong and a Smoking Club (salmon) subscription.
This was a business with an enviable London food hall, farmers’/street market presence and proud as punch Ocado & Waitrose listings. However, in mid-2020, during the height of #Lockdown, this much-loved custodian of effortlessly stylish, boozy fish lost 97% of its business over a 6-week window.
This wasn’t a result of carelessness or poor ‘fishmanship’, but a heady storm of inexplicable bad luck and poor timing (supermarkets focused on essential lines, Ocado aligned with M&S and their suppliers).
Whilst staunch alliances with two online powerhouses had been very handy for the coffers, it had inadvertently placed an uncomfortable stranglehold on James and his team. Unrelenting requests for marketing support, the last-minute seizing of meticulously prepared stock and a stubborn refusal to look beyond a few core flavours and formats (which stifled this business’ unrivalled reputation for cutting edge innovation) meant that The Pished Fish had in effect become a hostage to two supermarket heavyweights and in so doing lost its mojo (stagnant website, no spare funds to invest in online advertising, building brand awareness, establishing an end consumer database).
And yet, this temporary fall from grace enabled The Pished Fish to realise its shortcomings and initiate change by re-establishing itself as a D2C hero, almost instantly resulting in a massive surge in orders, significant infrastructure investment (expanded smokery & chiller capacity), meaningful staff recruitment (to teach treasured fishmonger skills), a new all-singing online presence and an explosion in end consumer awareness.
Adversity can truly be the moment to remind yourself why you set up your own business in the first place: interacting with real customers constantly evolving your business' range (Gilltong (fish jerky), salmon fillets bathed with honey & bourbon, pates, festive collections, fish pie) and building a team with a shared appreciation of all things fish!
Like the sound of booze-infused fish? Head over to The Pished Fish and see what tickles your fancy!
Back in 2014 it looked as though time was up for juices and smoothies when a Public Health England report recommending a rapid reversal in sugar intake saw the juice fixture sales collapse. Yes, juice is packed with natural sugars but this was only ever half the story, because juices had always historically been ring-fenced as an ‘essential’ food category that helped a post-war public significantly raise its fruit and Vitamin C consumption after years of unwelcome rationing.
Heat pasteurisation was the creaking 1950s technology that initially allowed fruit & veg juice to be bottled, however whilst it was adequately equipped to keep ‘bad bacteria’ at bay, the heavy-handed nature of the ‘blitzing with heat’ process meant that the resulting flavours and nutritional worth bore little resemblance to the original ingredients.
Coldpress uses high-pressure processing (HPP/cold pasteurisation) which allows fruit and veg to be treated in a firm yet gentler way, which allows delicate flavours like raspberries, kiwis, cucumber - to truly express themselves whilst allowing every imaginable flavour combination to remain at its ‘nutritional peak’.
Thanks to Coldpress’ pioneering work, it was now possible to differentiate the distinct flavour notes of a Pink Lady vs a Golden Delicious or a proud Valencian from a Satsuma, Tangerine, Florida or Californian orange.
The only problem was that Big Soda, Innocent (Coca Cola) & Tropicana (Pepsi) enjoyed a vice-like grip on the sector due to the vast economies of scale they commanded. In a desperate bid to remain relevant/competitive, Coldpress were forced to work alongside a number of inconsistent third-party co-packers whilst dabbling with all-manner of new product innovations (fruity almond milks, fruity coconut waters etc.) which, despite being in many ways ahead of the curve, wasn’t going to be a game-changer when it came to building significant volume growth in the core juice & smoothie fixtures.
Coldpress’ resurrection began in 2020 when it took the bold decision to collaborate with one of Spain’s biggest juice processors and create a bespoke HPP pressery. A high-tech, purpose-built site meant Coldpress was finally in charge of its own destiny (and price competitive) with everyone from Lidl, Co-op and Waitrose won over by the business’ superior production values.
Lockdown, however, was the real game-changing moment. Pandemic anxiety and a slump in exercise opportunities meant consumers sought out products that worked harder to counter increasingly hectic and stressed lifestyles. It became clear that consumers wanted juices that provided a broader functional benefits agenda (Vitamins B, E and especially the Covid-tackling Vitamin D) which is when Coldpress became Europe’s first provider of HPP juices & smoothies with added fortified vitamins - a bold move that married best-in-class taste with a substantial vitamin punch.
Today, Coldpress’ export, online and independent sector sales are snowballing and this November, they were invited to Asda’s cutting-edge Health Bays.
By going the extra yard in terms of both taste and nutritional clout, Coldpress has made a seamless transition from stuttering also-ran to cutting-edge pioneer.
For Coldpress’ full array of delicious juices and smoothies, visit their website today!