Virgin StartUp Foodpreneur Festival winners announced!

Last Friday, Virgin StartUp announced the winners of their Foodpreneur Festival – each winning a tasty mentoring package with routes to market and the chance to raise their business profiles.

Developed by Virgin StartUp, Sir Richard Branson’s not-for-profit company providing funding and support for entrepreneurs, the popular food festival superseded last year’s event with even bigger prizes including the chance for UK foodies to launch their companies in the US.

Winners of the two categories (retail and street food) were announced during a live showcase at London’s The Vinyl Factory by an impressive panel of judges, which included Ella’s Kitchen founder Paul Lindley, Urban Food Festfounder Jessica Tucker, Appear Here founder Ross Bailey as well as Sir Richard Branson himself.


The retail winners

The five winners of the retail category were:

  • Cauli Rice founded by Gem Misa, is the only long-life, ready to heat version of the global health food phenomenon ‘cauliflower rice’. Gem grabbed the judge’s attention with her commitment to the brand and its impressive growth; within two months of launch the product was in 1,000 supermarkets.
  •  Double Dutch started by twins Raissa and Joyce de Haas, offers an innovative range of premium soft drinks that are specifically developed to compliment higher quality gins, vodkas and tequilas. Raissa and Joyce’s unique product and innovative growth plans made them worthy winners.
  • Harry Brompton’s London Ice Tea created by Ian O’Donohue, is the world’s first premium alcoholic Ice Tea. Ian impressed the judges with his great tasting, award-winning product, as well as his ambitious growth plans. 
  • Mallow and Marsh founded by Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie, is an honest, alternative confectionery brand that is dedicated to putting good marshmallows on the map. Harriot’s listing growth impressed the judges, having gone from 35 Sainsbury’s stores in late March 2014 to 600 Sainsbury’s stores nationwide. Her knowledge of the US Market and her competitors also shone through to secure her place.
  • Pip & Nut founded by Pip Murray, is an all-natural nut butter brand that’s dedicated to putting the nut back into nut-trition. The company has won listings with over 1200 stores in it’s first year but it was Pip’s range of flavours (which are 100% natural with no palm oil or refined sugars) and fun and playful branding that secured her spot at the winner’s table.

The retail’ category was judged in collaboration with Exporting is GREAT, the UK government’s ambitious new campaign, which aims to inspire 100,000 new businesses to export by 2020.

Each winner will get the opportunity to meet buyers at Target Corporation in the US, who are seeking up to four new products to trial in their American stores. The trial for any selected products would take place across 300 stores with the option, at Target’s discretion, for successful products to be rolled out to all 2,000 Target Corporation stores after six months.


The street food winners

The two winners of the street food category are:

  • Humpit Hummus is a hummus and pita bar that serves a vegan selection of Mediterranean-inspired foods. Founder, Jonathan Phillips’ concept, ingredients, colours and vibrancy impressed the judges, all of whom agreed he would fit in perfectly in the V Corner (vegan and vegetarian) of Urban Food Fest. The award and prize will give Jonathan valuable support to drive awareness of his pop-up outside of Leeds.
  • CLAW Food, which has become popular due to its infamous CLAW Burger, is one of the only British seafood pop-ups that focus on crab and other sustainable British sea foods. CLAW’s strong brand identity, and founder Fabian Clark’s enthusiasm and drive to bring the humble crab back to British plates wowed the judges. The award and prize will give Fabian exposure to Old Street’s 70,000 daily commuters, and valuable support to drive the development of his brand.

The Street Food category was judged in collaboration with Urban Food Fest and Appear Here. Humpit Hummus win a three-month stall spot at Urban Food Fest in Shoreditch, and CLAW Food win a rent-free, week-long pop up at Old Street Underground Station via Appear Here.

Words of wisdom from the experts

As well as the big announcement, Virgin StartUp organised a morning of brilliant workshops covering everything from branding to routes to market, and featuring some of the UK’s leading foodpreneurs, including Thomasina Miers from Wahaca, Martha Swift from Primrose Bakery and Charles Rolls from Fever Tree. Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen also shared his experience and advice.

Some of the advice shared throughout the day includes:

  • Go into the supermarket and look to see where your product fits – many new products are hard to categorise.
  • If you’ve got suppliers who believe in you they’ll work with you to iron out any problems along the way.
  • Focus on nailing that one thing – owning that product and gaining credibility.
  • Having a brand tat looks good makes people want to know about it.
  • Never compromise in the taste of your product – taste trumps everything else.

Golden age of entrepreneurship

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder said of the event:

“The UK is living through a golden age of entrepreneurship and British foodie start-ups are at the heart of it. This year’s Foodpreneur finalists showed great innovation and meeting the great minds and talented chefs behind each idea has been inspiring. The standard of entries was very high but the winners really stood out for their passion and pioneering businesses.” 

And Paul Lindley Founder of Ella’s Kitchen said:

“The US market is the ultimate business opportunity for British brands looking to expand internationally. This year’s winners in the Retail category are brilliant examples of what a passion for food and drink combined with a pioneering business plan and buckets of creativity and innovation can achieve.”

Aspiring foodie start-up? Read more expert foodpreneur tips from the day here