10 June 2020, 14:53 PM
  • Small British businesses are the lifeblood of the British economy and while some are sadly struggling to stay afloat during the current crisis, others are thriving and experiencing incredible sales growth
Covid-19 crisis spurs exponential growth for three British challenger brands

A healthy baking mix company run by two female entrepreneurs has sold ten weeks’ worth of stock in two weeks. A business that sells dairy alternatives has seen a 70% growth during lockdown while a Latin food brand that produces sauces and meal kits reports growth of 300% since January of this year and a whopping 600% increase since March 2019. Each of these brands are available nationally in grocery stores and online through Mighty Small, a new supermarket supporting independent brands.

Superfood Bakery founders Ksenia Tkacheva and Tania Vynokurova were accustomed to seeing rapid sales increases of their healthy baking mix product line well before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020. The savvy duo had seen a gap in the market for natural, additive-free baking mixes and started experimenting at home with free-from variations of their favourite recipes before they launched their company in 2017. While most pre-packaged bakery products on the market are full of artificial ingredients, preservatives and hidden sugars, the Superfood Bakery range is gluten-free and dairy-free, with the option to be vegan too. And all the mixes are made from British ingredients in the UK. Today, the range includes six mixes, four of which are also organic: chocolate cake; banana loaf; pancakes; brownies and two types of cookies.

The two entrepreneurs were clearly correct to spot a desire for healthy baking mixes and as a result their company grew 300% in its second year. A cash injection of £250,000 from a group of angel investors in 2019 enabled the company to expand further in both product development and distribution.

Superfood Bakery was in a healthy growth mode prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 this spring but Tkacheva and Vynokurova were taken by surprise at the almost overnight acceleration in sales. Thanks to consumers shifting to home cooking, Superfood Bakery sold ten weeks of stock in less than two weeks. Retail sales increased by over 200% starting the week before lockdown due to shoppers wanting to stock up. While they were able to continue to meet this increased supermarket demand, the burgeoning online sales to consumers was another story. Online sales grew an unexpected tenfold overnight, beginning in the first week of the government instructed lockdown. The sudden increase in demand has meant that some products have been temporarily out of stock in recent weeks. However, Tkacheva and Vynokurova have seen consumers return to buy online and are confident that trend will continue now that there’s a significant appetite for home cooking. History also confirms this with a home baking revival during the 2009 recession. And there’s no doubt that consumer habits have been profoundly changed in recent months. It does seem likely that the increased demand for home baking products is a permanent feature in the current and post-Covid-19 environment.

Plenish was established in 2012 by Kara Rosen who turned to plant-based foods as a way of rebuilding her health and boosting her energy levels. The business has grown from the UK’s first cold-pressed juice company, hand-making organic drinks in Rosen’s kitchen to the UK’s fastest growing plant-based drinks brand, whose organic m*lks, juices and shots are sold in supermarkets nationwide. The company’s launch of nut m*lks in 2016 has been particularly successful. The m*lks are produced without additives, preservatives or sweeteners and are each made with only three ingredients: filtered water, nuts and natural salt. Plenish doesn’t use any oils, gums or other fillers and six times more almonds are in the company’s Almond m*lk than in other leading brands. Rosen and her team have built a loyal consumer base with a repeat purchase rate at over 80%. Plenish’s compound annual growth rate has been over 50% over the last three years and since the Covid-19 lockdown, that growth has accelerated to 70%. The company attributes this sales success to consumers prioritising the health and wellness of themselves and the planet by purchasing natural, additive-free products.

Former business consultant Ben Jackson launched Capsicana, a small range of Latin sauces in 2009. The products were only available from a handful of independent food shops until his first order from Waitrose in 2016. This major order was the pathway to widespread national distribution and escalating sales. Today, Capsicana’s range includes Argentinian, Brazilian, Cuban, Mexican and Peruvian sauces, plus complete meal kits (the Mexican Chilli and Honey is the bestseller).

Capsicana has experienced impressive growth since then but nothing prepared Jackson for the tremendous sales spike this spring in the leadup to and since the Covid-19 lockdown. Following record-breaking sales in March 2020, they’ve sold what was previously six weeks of product each week. The overnight increase in demand did present some challenges on the supply side, which meant there was a time lag in manufacturing some products and there’s been a delay with new product launches. However, a record number of consumers have tried the brand for the first time and no doubt some of these will translate into new loyal customers.

Jackson attributes the fast growth, starting in March, to consumers stocking up in advance of lockdown on products for their freezer or store cupboards. Rice, pasta and sauces like those from Capsicana were and still are obvious choices. It also didn’t hurt that the company’s main competitor, Spanish based Old El Paso, was completely out of stock in UK stores for weeks. Lockdown has led to Capsicana being sold direct to the consumer for the first time via MightySmall, the new online supermarket stocking independent British brands.

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