The Skinny Food Co. has hit a sweet spot – minus the sugar and calories – for a saucy, healthier alternative.
Business is booming for the founders of the guilt-free range, who were so confident in their products that they turned down an invitation from the producers of Dragons’ Den to appear on the show.
Just 18 months after launching their successful online venture they’re about open their first shop – right here in Nottingham, selling syrups, jams, sauces and snacks.
The company began because founders James Whiting, 28, and Wayne Starkey, 40, both had family members with diabetes.
However, with none of the calories or sugar but all of the taste, the range has also taken off with fitness fans, dieters, coeliacs and vegans.
Until now the products have only been available through a website and other stockists but that’s about to change.
Since launching in May 2018, the business has turned over £4m through online sales alone, not counting the products on sale in butchers, garden centres, delis, Co-op stores and Spar shops and, from March, more than 400 Morrisons’ stores across the UK.
The first Skinny Food Co. shop will open shortly at the HQ in Arnold, at John Rann Business Park in Eagle Close. On sale will be more than 20 types of sugar-free and fat-free sauces including ketchup, sweet chilli, mayonnaise and barbecue.
Syrups come in close to 30 flavours – from chocolate fudge cake and salted caramel to rhubarb and custard and golden syrup, using sucralose for sweetening instead of sugar.
Customers use them for baking, porridge, pancakes and waffles – and for those looking to reduce their sugar intake rather than avoid it completely, they make ideal toppings for ice cream.
Low-sugar jams, peanut butter, low-calorie cake mixes for brownies, cookies and muffins and a healthier version of calorific chocolate spread are amongst the other items soon to the flying off the shelves.
The venture began with £3,000. “It was a low investment and we scaled it up quite quickly,” said James, who lives in Colwick.
The company, which employs 16 full-time staff, is hoping for a £7m turnover by April 2021.
James said: “A lot of people had a need for our products. It has really caught on. There was a gap in the market.
“Some of our customers are very creative. A lot of our Instagram is user-generated.”
As well as being targeted by the producers of Dragons’ Den – the BBC2 show where budding entrepreneurs pitch for investment from the team of multi-millionaires – the Skinny Food Co has also been approached by Walmart.
“All the majors came to us saying we want your products. We have hit a sweet spot in the eyes of people who enjoy using the products,” added James.
The founders originally worked together in the north when marketing consultant James promoted Wayne’s sports and nutrition company on social media.
He said: “Wayne had all these ideas for different brands he wanted to launch and asked if I’d do the social media. I was starting to get tired of doing social media and I wanted my own brand.”
The duo are both involved in recipe creation and new products are in development all the time. The latest include a new line in coffee syrups, zero-calorie coffee creamer and snack bars.
The speed in which the business has grown has taken them by surprise. James said: “I knew it would be good and go well but I didn’t know it would go as fast as this.”
An opening date hasn’t been set for the shop but it will be “as soon as possible,” he added.
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