UK supplements firm eyes high street after capital injection

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

MD: 'What we don’t have is men squeezing their biceps on the front of our products.'
MD: 'What we don’t have is men squeezing their biceps on the front of our products.'

Related tags: Nutrition

UK supplements firm Natural Nutrients has bagged a €145k investment from Northstar Ventures to develop its natural and ‘friendly’ brand and expand its product lines and retail distribution.

The firm currently sells its range of “grass fed​” whey protein and other natural supplements through Fenwick’s department store in Newcastle and around 40 independent retailers and trainers. With the new investment managing director Liam Sherriff says Natural Nutrients plans to develop new products with a view to targeting high street retail outlets.

We feel our branding is best suited to retail and high street stores. It’s a case of developing new products, primarily snacks and superfoods, and taking them to the retail high street – the likes of Whole Foods, Boots.

“Hopefully we can develop something we can approach Waitrose and Sainsbury’s with in the free-from section – that’s our longer-term plan​,” said Sherriff.

No bulging biceps

Among the products under development is protein popcorn. Sherriff notes that while there are other companies producing similar products, they are primarily focused on the body-building market – while his firm is “totally on the other end of the scale​”.

He sees Natural Nutrients’ branding as one of its key differentiators: “What we don’t have is men squeezing their biceps on the front of our products. We knew that if we played on a more natural and friendly branding perspective, we’d be able to tap into the female market a lot more.

sports drinks women woman Copyright diego_cervo
©iStock/o_cervo

When I was working as a personal trainer, nutrition was one of those things I was always very passionate about. Especially with women, if you look at the standalone body building supplements, from proteins right through to creatine and amino acids – five years ago, very few women would have even touched those, and I think a lot of the reason comes down to branding and positioning​,” Sherriff added.

Natural Nutrients rose from Sherriff’s frustration at struggling to recommend food supplements that were natural and ethical, and not based around upselling unsuitable products to his clients. What started as a side project in 2013 became a full-time job at the end of last year, and in early 2016 the firm started to look for external funding.

Chicken-and-egg scenario

We’d had loads of different product development in mind for months – we knew we needed more staff, but we were in the chicken-and-egg scenario where we didn’t have the funds to pay more staff without getting more staff on board​,” said Sherriff.

Everything we thought about doing, we needed cash-flow for. It was a bit of a stark reality – if we were going to push this business of ours at the time, we needed some sort of cash injection​.”

After around six months of searching and pitching, the firm secured the £125k (€145k) proof-of-concept loan from Northstar, which can be converted into equity after two years by mutual agreement.

Along with developing new products, Natural Nutrients is also opening a new shake bar and health food shop in its Durham premises, and expanding its distribution. The company has recently signed an agreement with wholesaler Tree Of Life, and is aiming to bring in additional distribution partners in the near future.

Having this money not only allows us to market better to our customers, but also gives us freedom to get to more events where we can get to other shops,” ​said Sheriff.

We’re just starting the retail process – but we managed to do Fenwick’s and all the other accounts with virtually nothing, so we’re quite confident that with a bit of a push and some new stuff we have in, we’ll do alright​.” 

#SNC16​  

SNC16-logo

A new NutraIngredients and European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) congress held in Frankfurt on November 28 the day before Health Ingredients Europe​ ​ will place your business front and centre of the playing field be it in supplements, herbals, powders, mixes, drinks, bars or gels.

More information here​ ​.

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