Superfoodio’s Nirali and Jagir Mankodi Speak to Pulsed About All Aspects of Developing a Scalable Business from a Unique Idea.
Some of the greatest ideas come off the back of life-changing experiences, and this is absolutely the case for Nirali and Jagir Mankodi, who devised the basis of Superfoodio following a high-energy backpacking trip around South America.
Superfoodio now produces a range of unique, colourfully packaged, and healthy peanut butter-based snacks that are inspired by the natural foods consumed during their backpacking adventure. This includes their hugely popular Peanut Butter Chunky Buttons which provide high levels of protein and contain only four natural ingredients. Recently, the founders took time to speak to us about initial inspiration, scaling without funding, and tips for anyone wanting to start up their own business.
What you’ve achieved so far has been hugely impressive. In particular, launching and scaling an Amazon-first brand isn’t something we see every day. How has this been going and what have you learnt from the process?
NM: When Covid-19 hit the UK, we knew that entering the retail market was going to be incredibly difficult. There were too many uncertainties and unforeseen challenges at that stage, so this made our decision to focus and grow as a digital first brand a simple one.
As a challenger brand creating a value-add product range, we knew that Amazon was the perfect platform for us to launch. By harnessing the power of Amazon we were able to get our products in front of millions of customers in an instant.
We quickly learnt that by focusing on one route to market, we were able to make our product and proposition perfect for the customer. Also, the fact that we are a small business meant that partnering with Amazon allowed us to keep our operation streamlined. We would make our delicious peanut buttery treats in the kitchens, wrap them up, and deliver them to the Amazon warehouse in small batches. After this, we would let Amazon logistics do the heavy lifting to deliver the orders to customers all over the UK. In most cases, this would be on Next Day service with Amazon Prime.
You recently launched with the Co-op’s Accelerated Support Scheme – from your experience on this, we’d love to hear your insight for any up-and-coming brands.
JM: After the phenomenal response from customers online, we knew we could carry this momentum and accelerate our growth into retail post-Covid! Having the opportunity to pitch our Peanut Butter Buttons snack range to Co-op was an incredible opportunity to showcase our innovation and passion for bringing better-for-you snacks to the UK market.
We have always admired how the Co-op team truly champions and supports small, mission-led businesses in the UK. Therefore, being accepted into The Co-op apiary scheme has been a major milestone for Superfoodio. From the support and mentorship to the market insights that we have access to, it all allows us to grow our business from a start-up to a scale-up.
Having just launched into 196 Co-op stores nationally, we are excited that our mission of making healthier snack options more accessible has just been realized at a national level.
Scaling without funding is rare to see and a brave move – how has it been going?
NM: We are incredibly passionate about building a mission-led business that will change the world for good. Being a self-funded start-up, we have grown within our skin in a sustainable manner. Sure, this has meant that we are not setting any world records (yet)! But it has also given us the space to learn and grow organically.
Having grown up in working-class families, we were always taught the true value of a pound. Looking back, this is a lesson that you can’t put a price on! No pun intended. This mindset has allowed us to think creatively instead of just throwing money to see how something will go. Every decision we make about spending money is thought through and considered. This will not change even when we take on investment.
Many people have the ambition of starting up their own business, what were the first few things you did to initiate this venture?
JM: From our experience, there are a few key points that helped us get the ball rolling with Superfoodio: Don’t be afraid to start!
It is not necessary to have vast amounts of experience in a sector before you can start a business. We certainly didn’t! In fact, having fresh eyes plays to our advantage. By challenging the norm, and asking why, we were able to disrupt the nut butter category and create a product range that adds value to customers’ lives.
It sounds cliche, but it’s so true – you must be passionate about what you do. You must live and breathe your business, and therefore it helps if you are passionate about it.
By setting a goal and objective for your business helps you to focus, plan, grow and reflect. We found that the goal-setting process itself is therapeutic which puts structure to each and every day. In turn, you are able to measure progress, hit milestones, and even course correct when required.
And finally, networking is a must! The power of networking is so important as it allows you to learn from other people’s experiences and builds a community that you can surround yourself with.
Entrepreneurship can feel like a lonely journey most of the time, so why not connect and share it with like-minded founders! Whether that is online on platforms such as LinkedIn or in-person events, it is important to put yourself out there and make meaningful connections. Business is actually all about relationships! We have made great friends along the way and love supporting and cheering on each other’s successes.
In hindsight, is there anything you’d change from your current business model?
NM: We are getting comfortable with the fact that building a business is all about evolving. You will always have areas that you can change and improve. We started Superfoodio as an online gifting service a few years ago. Today we have evolved into a better-for-you snacks brand. The one thing that hasn’t changed is our ethos, values, and mission.
It is easy to look at another business and think “Ooh, I should also do that!” or “I wish I had thought of that!” However, what you can see on the surface is rarely the full picture. What is right for one business may not be right for another.
Your marketing hashtag #nomorebutterfingers is great – how did you decide which marketing channels are most important to you to create these campaigns?
JM: The full tagline is “No Jars, No Spoons, No More Butter Fingers”. It gives a nod to our love for peanut butter and at the same time tells an intriguing story about our latest product range, the Peanut Butter Buttons.
We wanted to be able to tell our story coherently across all platforms and mediums whether that is Instagram, TikTok, email, print, or digital ads. That is why the #NoMoreButterFingers hashtag allows us to share our USPs in a fun and simple way through our marketing campaigns. Each platform is unique and the content created has to suit the audience. That is why having an overarching marketing strategy allows you to tell a story in a consistent manner, instead of creating bespoke messages and content on each platform.
From our experience, email has been a very powerful channel to engage and communicate directly with our community. This is closely followed by our social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. We build our marketing and comms strategies as a two-way street, giving our customers and followers an open channel to engage with us rather than a one-way street.
What made you choose the current range that you sell, and do you think there will come a time when you need to diverge away from peanut-based products?
NM: As a family, we are peanut butter obsessed! We spread it on toast, swirl it into porridge, dot it on banana slices, and drizzle it over yoghurt!
It was in COVID lockdown 1.0 that Jag had an ‘ah-ha’ moment! He asked himself, why is peanut butter and all its goodness stuck inside the jar in the breakfast spread category? Surely there should be a convenient way to enjoy it throughout the day! That’s when Jag decided to get into the kitchen and started experimenting!
After nearly 20 months of testing and tweaking hundreds of recipes, we’d created the world’s first Peanut Butter Button! A delicious peanut buttery snack that you could enjoy anywhere, any time. No jars, no spoons, no more butter fingers. As the saying goes “Necessity is the mother of invention”!
It’s incredible to think how far we have come in 10 months of launching the Peanut Butter Buttons. Launching into the Co-op is a huge step for our business, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our customers, the Co-op team who love supporting mission-led businesses. For this, we are forever grateful.
We are passionate about innovation with simple, natural ingredients, whether that’s with peanut butter or without. We invest a lot in NPD and are looking forward to bringing to the market new and exciting products with a WOW factor in the next 12 months. We can’t wait to excite and delight taste buds all over the UK.