Guest post by Robert Jakobi, the Managing Director and Co Owner of Metcalfe's Food Company, which was founded by Julian Metcalfe in 2009.
When I joined Metcalfe’s Food Company in 2010, the business was little more than a sideline that Julian Metcalfe had started in order to sell popcorn to his two primary businesses Pret a Manger and itsu. We are now more than just a popcorn company and have two brands itsu [grocery] and Metcalfe’s skinny.
itsu [grocery] was created to take the much loved itsu brand far and wide into delicatessens, health food shops & supermarkets. Metcalfe’s skinny is on a mission to rustle up lighter alternatives to crisps, cakes and cookies. Both brands are stocked in all major retail outlets across the UK. We have recently launched Metcalfe’s skinny in Europe in Belgium, France and Spain. There are more exciting plans on the horizon with the launch of itsu [grocery] in New York in early 2016.
We have enjoyed a compound annual growth rate of 201% over the three years. In recognition of this growth, we were ranked at number 4 in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 in December 2014. This was the first time that a food and drink company has appeared in the top 5 and reflects our position as the fastest growing privately owned food and drink company in the UK.
There are several key aspects that I believe have been crucial in maintaining this continued growth YoY:
We are obsessed with creating the most unique and exciting products in the market. Our NDP team scours the globe looking for inspirations for the newest and most innovative flavours and trends. We are also willing to take risks that no one else in the food industry will take and this is how we are able to stay ahead of the rest of the market.
This is and will always be our top priority. We have always been first to market with the most innovative, high quality and great tasting, healthy snack products.
We have a particularly interesting and unique brand heritage having been launched by Julian Metcalfe. Julian has built up two of the most renowned restaurant chains in the UK of the past 50 years (itsu and Pret) and in doing so has changed the face of healthy eating on the high street.
Strong working relationships
We take great pride in the relationships that we have built with both our customers and suppliers. We are fully aware that without such good partnerships and relationships we never would have experienced such high levels of growth.
Building a business is definitely not easy. The most important thing is to learn from your mistakes. From my own personal experience there are several pieces of advice that I would offer to early stage startups looking to grow:
I know first-hand how disheartening it can be to face rejection but at the same time how rewarding persistence can be when it pays off. When I started my snacks business Pod bites, a range of chocolate and yoghurt covered edamame, I was intent on having them stocked in itsu as I knew it was the perfect outlet. I contacted Julian’s office weekly for several months and didn’t hear anything back. Eventually, he finally gave in and agreed to meet with me and the rest is history! The retail market these days is undeniably tough and competition is fierce but if you truly believe in your product you just need to persist until you find a way to make it happen. Believe in your product and believe in yourself.
Listen and learn
But remember that doesn't mean you don't have an opinion. You just need to pick your moment. Always listen to what your customers have to say as fundamentally it is their business that will drive yours. With any retail business, you are often dealing with people that you are reliant on for your business to succeed.
Build a strong team
One of the main ways that we have been able to maintain such growth is by building a very dynamic, entrepreneurial and spirited team underneath us. It is so important to work with people that share each other’s passion and are all dedicated to making the business as successful as it can be. Our team are the envy of the food industry!
Check out Metcalfe's Food Company here: http://www.metcalfesfood.com/