Interview with Craig Allen, founder of GSN

Find out how Craig Allen launched GSN, a business that showcases healthier snacking in an altogether more appetizing light. GSN are a proud Yorkshire based, frozen food operation with an unswerving vision to create tasty, convenient meals with a high protein leaning.

Where did the idea for GSN come from?

I started out working for the family business which had strong ties to the restaurant sector. Here I unearthed a number of really interesting restaurant trade secrets that I realised if improved upon had the potential to be game-changing within the wider food and drink sector (for example, steamed chicken).

Once I’d sourced a superior, clean deck alternative I packed my van and spent 16 hours a day prospecting my discovery hither and thither. Friends and family thought I was chasing a lost cause and yet slowly the word spread, orders grew and Gold Standard Nutrition was born.   

As my meal portfolio evolved, I noticed that that my idea landed especially well within the gym-friendly/healthier living fraternity that was forever on the lookout for tasty yet convenient, ‘everyday affordable’ protein sources.       

Independent gyms and leisure centres were establishing themselves as my loyalist heartland because their customers craved tasty, protein-savvy choices that didn’t cost the earth yet over-indexed in terms of taste and ease-of-preparation.

Who’s your ideal customer?

Anyone with an active interest in athleisure – seeking the right blend of exercise and good nutrition.

Are you a functional food range? 

In one sense you could label GSN a functional food because of its nutritional profile, convenience and taste which make it a complete healthier eating solution.

That said, labelling a brand is too simplistic because it gives the impression of something being short-term and faddy, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  

Our range has real longevity because is shaped by simple, commonsense thinking that there’s a growing demand for healthy yet complete meal solutions that are not only easy to prepare but support a healthier living lifestyle.

We actively prioritise recipes that are naturally high in protein, yet low in unwelcome carbs and sugars that can nevertheless be prepared in the blink of an eye

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

It’s the usual David versus Goliath scenario of finding creative ways to compete with our large big budget rivals with a small team and finite budget. 

Were you a lockdown loser or beneficiary?

In overall terms a beneficiary. Yes, there were clear setbacks, specifically when our independent gym and leisure centre heartland closed down for a significant period of time.  

Then again, Lockdown redrew the map as more individuals re-evaluated their weekly eating patterns which were found to be wanting. The war against excessive salt, sugar and saturated fats had now begun in earnest and GSN was on the front line.  

There was a tired, old-school perception that junk food tended to not only taste nicer than its health-conscious equivalents whilst offering fool-proof convenience. GSN knew that it could combine great taste with fast, foolproof preparation that it would be onto something truly special.  

GSN also baulked at the notion that simple, health-conscious snacking couldn’t look like real food. With so many misleading protein powders and bars already in circulation, GSN wanted to wind the clock back to when healthy eating was made with simple, instantly recognisable ingredients.                                                                                                                                                                                   

What’s your proudest moment to date?

Hitting our watershed sales target whilst I was on holiday, with the team face-timing me to share the sense of achievement and excitement. This hurdle took 10 years to jump but absolutely key because I knew we were building so much more than a brand.   

Others include surpassing 400 independent gyms, getting our hugely successful e-commerce operation, our new Ireland distribution success, our fostering our enviable stream of leading-edge product innovation OR even securing our first Grocer magazine mention.  

Probably I should tip my hat to our instantly recognizable Pots of Gold range that are one of many key reasons why we continue to stand proud from the crowd.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Never be embarrassed to ask questions, only surround yourself with people that lift you up not bring you down and most importantly believe in your gut.

Which brands do you admire?

Not food related but I would say KITH an American fashion and lifestyle brand established by Ronnie Fieg. They are absolutely everything you’d want in a brand. North Face would be another, it’s my ‘go to’ brand for any outdoor adventuring.

Find out more about GSN.