Smugglers ice cream sneaks vegetables into its flavours, but there was no such hiding for its three founding fathers when it came to launching their brand. Having secured a deal with Waitrose, snow during launch week in March was followed by weeks of rain, and the trio had an unwanted start-up challenge on their hands.
“Because it’s potted ice cream, it’s less seasonal than lollies, but you still need people to be in the mood to buy it,” recalls Smugglers co-founder Toby Moore. “We are in the lap of gods but it’s the same with beer or soft drinks.”
Read More: Behind the brand: GoHenry, the prepaid debit card for kids
Now the weather is to their taste, the brand owners are firmly aiming their veggie-infused tubs at families “who won’t compromise on taste and texture but also want some goodness in their ice cream.”
Hailed as ‘revolutionary’ by trending platform Gramersi, Smugglers launched with two flavours: vanilla and parsnip, along with chocolate and beetroot. Both vegetables are ‘hidden’ in the product. “Parents will do whatever they can to get the good stuff into their kids if they can,” says Moore. “That’s where the starting point was. It was a simple premise: trying to take the bad stuff out and we add the good in.”
The bad stuff, says Moore, is what gives ice cream its great texture and flavour. “Taste is absolutely paramount,” he adds.
“Most corporations will think about what they can take out. They will do so mostly because of cost but also, when they are looking at reducing sugar, they are compromising the taste experience.”
Ice creams still need the sugar and fats for structure and flavor to come through. Where Smugglers Food aims to stand out is through reduced fat, sugar and fewer calories. Further, by adding the veg it enhances the recipe and reduces the amount of milk and sugar. “Plus there’s the double whammy with the vitamins,” adds Moore.
All three British founders faced the same problem of getting their children to eat vegetables. The trio now seems to be the perfect crack team when it comes to running a start-up business.
Read More: How Ooni became the market leader in pizza making
Dan Lowe moved from tech to the craft beer scene, co-founding the wildly successful London brewery Fourpure — the first in the UK to put craft beer into cans — before selling in 2018 to Australian firm Lion, a subsidiary of Japan’s Kirin Brewery.
While Lowe holds supply chain expertise, Moore is a shopper marketing expert, and tech entrepreneur James Sewell brings a sales background to the table. “It’s a nice jigsaw of talent that comes together and we all bring different things to the party,” says Moore.
When Smugglers launched, their PR campaign then came to the fore with a national newspaper feature asking, ‘Is this the world’s healthiest ice cream – or the sneakiest?’
“It was a great headline,” smiled Moore. Although the founders realize that healthy means active, their product still holds the added goodness which they hope sets them apart. The holy grail of ice cream, according to Moore. In the UK, Smugglers has no competition – in 2014 Haagen Dazs unsuccessfully launched its Spoon Vege ice cream in Japan, with cherry tomato and carrot – while in other categories, vegetables are packaged into normal products like cereal.
“They are missing the key insight,” admits Moore. “The point is you have to hide it. You have to smuggle in the goodness so kids don’t know they are getting it. It needs to be purposeful and fundamentally solves a problem for people.”
The founders have product-tested at triathlon events, their backstory proving a hit with parents and the hidden veg leaving unsuspecting children returning for more.
“The parents think it’s extraordinary,” claims Moore, “and from a brand owner’s point of view, that personal interaction of people trying your product is fantastic. There is nothing like being deeply involved in the business and having that personal time.”
Smugglers are currently working with the fourth biggest manufacturer in the UK, one with Italian heritage which has produced an opportunity for both parties. Sewell says: “They know how to make great ice cream. We know how to create a brand and take it to market. It was a meeting of minds and we were looking for that kind of fit.
Read More: Dash Water, the UK’s fastest-growing beverage brand
“We didn’t necessarily want to work with someone who had their brands in retail too. You don’t necessarily get the focus of the senior management team and you are just another brand they produce.”
Standing out is clearly the founders biggest weapon. “There is no point in producing just another ice cream,” adds Moore. “Why would anyone from a retail buyer to a consumer be interested in just another chocolate ice cream? It has to be ‘what are you bringing to the party that’s different and disruptive?’”
Smugglers ice cream is available at Waitrose in chocolate and vanilla flavors
Watch: Is it financially worth going to university?
Download the Yahoo Finance app, available for apples and Androids.