Hunter & Gather took a ‘lifetime of personal development and learning’ to form the core business values, according to the start-up’s co-founder Amy Moring.
She was diagnosed with Coeliac disease at just 18 months old. For her that was the beginning of a live ‘of always checking the back of pack’ and cooking from scratch. “It was not easy over 20 years ago, so much has changed since then,” she reflected.
Her partner, Jeff Webster, arrived at the same conclusion – that a ‘conventional diet of higher carbohydrates, poor quality fats and sugars’ was contributing to ‘poor health and wellness’ – via a different route some years later.
“Whilst at uni studying for a building surveying degree and developing a passion for running, Jeff stumbled upon the paleo, keto and real food lifestyles gaining traction in the US. Once he adjusted his diet, his acne, constant hunger and asthma all significantly improved. Years of research and personal development led us to create our core principles of no sugar, grains or inflammatory oils for Hunter & Gather,” Moring explained.
These personal revelations prompted the pair to develop their food philosophy – ‘challenging conventional wisdom and creating quality, healthy, sustainable products’ – into a business model that they believe addresses a real gap in the market.
“Together, Jeff and I were constantly experimenting with real food meals at home and we felt that the majority of the public were starting to understand more about health and wellness and choosing organic vegetables, grass-fed meat – yet there was no convenient option for condiments and oils to fit these healthier lifestyle ambitions with many going without or compromising.”
The company launched its first product, classic avocado oil mayonnaise, in October 2017.
A ‘roller coaster’ ride to the shelf
Moring and Webster set off on this journey by developing their own recipe for avocado mayonnaise at home in their kitchen.
“We did our first production run in September 2017 with a family run condiment manufacturer to ensure that all health and safety regulations where covered. We produced 300 jars, with the aim to sell these within 6 months.”
But orders began ‘flooding in’ on the company’s website. “Jeff and I jumped around the living room in joy. Those 300 jars lasted days, rather than months as we had anticipated,” Moring said.
“A whirlwind ensued after this and we gained a listing with our first wholesaler and we launched within Wholefoods Market in London at the start of 2018. We also won the ‘Innovative Better For You Product Of The Year’ in November 2017 at the Food Matters Live Show in London and this really kickstarted traction for us as a business.”
Launching was not without its challenges, however. Indeed, Moring told FoodNavigator, just two weeks before their production run they had to come up with a last minute name change. “We received a letter from a well-known company in the US, asking us to change our trademarked name, Primal Revolution. What a blow – we had social media followers, labels printed and a production run about to go. We could not afford to fight this company to keep the name, even though we had the trademark approved in the UK. Was the dream over before it had even started? We thought so.”
Within two hours of returning to the drawing board, Moring and Webster had come up with Hunter & Gather, a name that, like the company’s ethos, has highly personal routes.
“Our business harps back to a time of eating good quality fats and real foods that our ancestors would have eaten and we thought what a great idea to have our name as a nod to the Paleo lifestyle. Hunter & Gather was a name that stuck and even better,” she told noted.
Moring’s maternal grandparents are Hunt’s and Webster’s paternal side are Gathergoods. “Some say, it was meant to be.”
‘Our personal stories resonate with our customers’
Initial reactions from retail have been positive (retailers said ‘wow’, according Moring).
“We found that retailers who are more forward thinking and take inspiration from the US, or have heard of Keto, Paleo etc are absolutely over the moon with our product ranges as it fills a missing gap in the UK. Those that have not heard of this before, take a little more encouragement but the fact they taste so delicious and are Great Taste Gold Winners, this helps with overcoming other barriers.”
Using just four ingredients – avocado oil, British free-range eggs, apple cider vinegar and pink Himalayan salt – the product certainly feeds into growing consumer demand for ‘real foods’ and clean ingredient lists.
Hunter & Gather is now stocked by a variety of channels, including health stores, independents and speciality stores as well as Ocado and Amazon.
“Our personal stories also resonate with our customers as first and foremost Jeff and I are our own customer. If the sourcing, ingredients, processes and packaging do not pass our own values and that of the business, then we just don’t do it. Our customers trust in us to have the superior first-hand knowledge that we have gained over the last 27 years and this is something that really sets us apart with any other condiment or health food brands,” the food founder claimed.
“We are also not just about taste, something could taste amazing but be detrimental to health – our products will not compromise on health, taste, ingredient quality and transparency.”
These principles are what really set Hunter & Gather apart in the increasingly crowded health and wellness space, she continued. “Health and wellness is hot on everyone’s list at the moment – but our values themselves are unique and there is no one that has been able to replicate our recipe, our values and us.
“We currently do not see us having any like-for-like competitors at the moment in the UK. There are brands bringing out 'healthier' condiments, however they still use ingredients that do not fit with our values and that of our core shoppers. I think that is why our tribe of followers is so engaged, they repeat buy more frequently than the industry average and we outsell our closest 'competitors' on Ocado, in Wholefoods and Amazon.”
‘Hunter & Gather is doing things differently’
Reflecting the company’s distinct values and personal connection to the product and consumers, Hunter & Gather has also adopted a distinct brand and marketing strategy to stand out from the crowd.
“Hunter & Gather as a brand is doing things differently. Most mayonnaise packaging is mainly white and farmhouse style colours. We made ours slate black with graphics that really stand out.”
Building a community and conversation around the brand and its ‘tribe’ – in particular on social media - is important too. “We share about other like-minded brands and useful content – we see us stronger together and share the work, products and useful information of others to be a resource to those seeking healthier lifestyle options,” Moring explained.
Doing things differently also extends to Hunder & Gather’s sourcing strategy. When procuring avocados, for instance, the company works with a farmer cooperative in Kenya. Hunter & Gather buys avocados that would otherwise have been rejected for export.
“The supermarkets only purchase avocados that are certain size, shape or colour. Anything that doesn’t meet the spec, was being left on the trees to rot. We buy these rejected fruit, which provides an additional income for the small-scale farmers and avoids food waste – double win. It does not matter if the fruit is wonky as we press them to create an oil anyway.”
A trend or trending?
Hunter & Gather might seem like the epitome of some of the new up-and-coming ‘trendy’ brands that are proliferating the marketplace.
But Moring insisted that the diets that the brand taps into will be no flash in the pan. “Gluten free, keto, paleo and all other lifestyles are not something to be considered a fad in my opinion.”
She believes that consumers who make the lifestyle switch are unlikely to look back. “Once you understand how well you can feel by considering and improving your diet, movement, good quality sleep and rest – you will not want to go back. The amount of mental clarity you have, energy and overall zest for life is worth the research and time,” she enthused.
Likewise, she wants to help make a diet that is lower in sugar accessible to more people. “There are also so many simple swaps that can be done to help reduce your sugar content, which can create a cycle of wellness, the better you feel, the more you are likely to want to move your body, the more you move the better you sleep and the cycle continues. As they say 80% impact can be achieved with 20% effort.”
You could be forgiven for assuming that Hunter & Gather’s core consumers are hipster millennials. Not so, Moring revealed. “You may be surprised but our core target market is women over the age of 45,” she explained, adding that the brand also has a strong appeal for families.
“One in four households say someone in their family is avoiding certain ingredients for a healthier life. It’s time for retailers to understand that these lifestyles and dietary requirements shape where a whole family will shop and eat. I have seen that with my own family, it was easier for us all to eat gluten free than to cook separate for me.”
Expanding in supplements: 'We are a health and wellness brand'
Hunter & Gather recently expanded its product portfolio to include collagen peptides and medium chain triglycerides oils. This might seem like quite a departure from the group’s beginnings in traditional cooking oils and condiments.
To Moring, the move was not a stretch. “We see Hunter & Gather as a health and wellness brand that is innovating in categories that are outdated and lacking in healthier, sustainable innovation. Collagen is a fundamental part of our lifestyle at Hunter & Gather and we saw that all of the tubs available to buy where plastic and we knew we could do better. We therefore are currently the only collagen in the world to come in a fully compostable plastic free pouch.
“Lot’s of our consumers also follow the keto lifestyle which utilises healthy fats such as MCTs – we therefore utilise our Evolve range for key search words, to encourage consumers to check out our other products that they may have not realised would fit their healthier lifestyles – such as our other oils and condiments.”
The company sees strong potential to innovate and expand in this space, with more innovation in the pipeline.
“Keep your eyes peeled as we are always experimenting with some first to market innovation. Our next product will be an addition to the Evolve supplements range of Hunter & Gather and is a very exciting and unique proposition that will get people talking.”