It’s been about nine months since Michael and I decided to embark on the Snact journey. Nine months is also the time it takes to have a child, and interestingly quite a few parallels can be drawn between starting a business and the traditional ups and downs of parenting.
The obvious similarities
When you’re starting a food business, you get very little sleep. Whether it’s because you wake up at 5.30am to go to the market to get surplus fruit, or because you stay up late at night to read up on all things related to food manufacturing. Going out becomes rarer and rarer, partly due to your busy schedule, partly because whatever money you have, you invest in what you’re trying to grow. You start hanging out with other people who are starting businesses because they get what you’re doing and because you have a thing or two you can learn from them – just like parents seek out to spend time with other parents. And besides, your friends might tire of you speaking about your baby your business all the time. Finally, you’re surrounded with fruit mush everywhere. You have the occasional (read regular) fruit spills and you find dried fruit puree on the pair of jeans you were sure you washed last week.
Playing with food
Like parents trying to convince their children to try new foods, we have to convince people to try our snacts (and buy them). I’ve mentioned before that the industry lingo for what we make is fruit leather, but it’s not very appealing and not necessarily helpful in conveying what they are. So along the way, we’ve adapted. We’ve changed from rolls to pieces, for ease of processing and packaging but also because it makes them much more fun to nibble on. We’ve also starting calling our snacts fruit jerky. Selling at markets and several pop-up events, we learnt that many people don’t actually know what our snacts are. Meat? Beef jerky? Vegetarian biltong is often what I say to people. Last week at the Lower Marsh market, someone came to our stand asking if our products were too spicy for their dog… They left quite disappointed realising we were, in fact, selling fruit.
Thinking about what goes into food
Like parents who become obsessed about feeding the best foods to their children, we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how our snacts can stay as unprocessed and as natural as viably possible. We’ve researched countless food processing technologies, visited facilities, had a lot of trial and errors, and spoken to fruit leather experts (thank you Chuck & Norman!) to find the process that is most suited for us. That’s because we’re set on not compromising the product we’ve created. If we processed them any less, they’d just be fruit. Our snacts are 100% fruit, we don’t add any additives or preservatives and intend to keep it that way.
Playing with new equipment
Just as the mother becomes proficient at the one-handed stroller assembly, we’re now dehydrating, blending, fruit-chopping ninjas. We’ve learnt to carry and balance 30 kilos of fruit in one go and to process 200 apples as fast as you can and always faster than you did before. We’ve also rediscovered the joys of arts and crafts, cutting our own stencils to make Snact signs, and playing with stamps and inks to better our packaging. And soon, we’ll build a mobile stand from recycled materials so we can sell our snacts at different locations on the street.
It takes a village
Just like the saying goes for a child… it takes a village to start a business. Like parents asking for help from families and friends, we’ve found help from all sorts of people and are hugely grateful for it. We’ve spoken to people who’ve worked in the food industry for years and to FMCG marketing experts; presented at a branding consultancy company to get feedback on the Snact brand; visited co-packaging facilities; gotten advice from food waste gurus and received accountancy and legal help from friends.
But it doesn’t end there. We can’t do this alone, and we don’t want to. We want Snact to be a brand and company that invites others to join in creating a better food system. Snacting is about lots of little actions adding up to something much bigger and that needs lots of people to get involved. As a starting point, we’re planning an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign which we aim to launch in April. Stay tuned by liking us on facebook or following us on twitter to know how you can contribute and get your hands on some Snact goodies.
High hopes for the future
All that said, we’re damn proud of the little bugger. We know Snact has a lot potential and we’re going to make sure we make the most of it.