Interview with Meenesh and Parul, founders of Wholey Moly
For all our nostalgic snack pre-conceptions, the UK biscuit landscape continues to evolve at pace, fuelled by the fact that British biscuit aficionados continue to spend £8 million on biscuits every single day.
This is a responsive food category increasingly driven by a growing appetite for indulgent, comforting snacks that uses only nutritious, no-holds-barred ingredients. Today 1 in 4 biscuits bought are of a ‘healthier living’ disposition as consumers seek to embellish their impromptu snacking timeouts with authentic snacks of distinction.
Wholey Moly is a three-strong range of moreish, plant-based cookies that are gluten-free, high-in-fibre sweet treats that use 50% less sugar than their ‘everyday’ biscuit peers, whilst never ever tinkering with refined sugar.
Find out what inspired husband and wife team Meenesh and Parul to launch Wholey Moly, and what’s happened along the way.
What’s your career backgrounds?
Meenesh: I’m a qualified accountant with 10+ years’ experience in finance.
Parul: I have 10+ years in business consulting, specialising in organisational change and working with a number of the world’s best-known Blue Chips.
What inspired you to create Wholey Moly?
Our starting point was a pent-up frustration at working in a corporate environment where the inevitable 3pm slump was tackled with an array of overtly sugary short-term fixes that momentarily provide a pick-up before dropping you back to zero an hour later.
Like everyone else we craved tasty sweet treats, however we also wanted biscuits that were good for us – hence our company strapline, ‘Feeding the craving without misbehaving.’ The more we rooted around for alternative healthy snacks, the more we realised that many of the so-called ‘better-for-you’ treats were far less good-for-you than they professed. This was the moment we knew we needed a new career direction and stepped up to the mixing bowl!
What attributes enable Wholey Moly cookies to stand proud of the biscuit crowd?
Taste without compromise is everything to us. We only work with 100% natural ingredients, which means never taking any preservatives or additives shortcuts. Most biscuits if you study their ingredient decks closely contain some sort of stabilizer or synthetic extras.
Lazy, quick-fix short-cuts just aren’t us! Nor do we use overt amounts of sugar (we use on average 50% less than our everyday biscuit peers) because our natural flavours are more than capable of standing on their own two feet!
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Getting through the pandemic was no easy feat for a business of our size. At the time we were solely ‘retail focused,’ so when stores were shut down at the precise moment we were about to scale-up into a number of national retailers (and imminent rollouts mothballed) we found ourselves in a bit of a tight spot.
We took the sensible (in hindsight) decision to pause the business and re-asses our whole offering. There were long overdue tweaks we’d been wanting to make to our branding, recipes, website and packaging for some while and with new major breakthrough listings soon to kick in, (Ocado and Sainsbury’s) we knew we had one window of opportunity to get everything right.
An improved website/online shop has enabled us to reduce our reliance on mainstream retail whilst our move to recyclable, paper packaging resonates with food retail’s increasingly responsible outlook. Perhaps most importantly of all were the small tweaks to our recipes as we cranked up our ‘indulgence factor,’ swapping out cacao for choc chips whilst reducing our historically crumbly tendencies
And what are your proudest moments so far?
Launching in Selfridges was definitely our defining moment to date (our first big break) although getting invited to 10 Downing Street as a small business owner and launching in Sainsburys’s and Ocado are all pretty close seconds!
What lessons did you learn from lockdown?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket channel-wise!
Which brand do you admire most and why?
Innocent, because they just get it: great branding, excellent tone of voice and consistently great products. They still continue to innovate in the premium juice space breathing new life into what was historically deemed a commodity aisle.
If you could share one piece of SME founder wisdom what would it be?
Network as much as you possibly can, it’s lonely as an SME business owner and you can learn so much from others, especially others who have been there and done it.
Find out more about Wholey Moly.