Top 7 UK food businesses that have expanded overseas
The food and drink industry is the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector with an annual turnover of £90 billion, employing 3.9 million people. Although the number of people regularly eating out is growing, restaurant chains are on the decline, and innovative food businesses are moving into the spotlight – particularly those with a focus on changing the way we eat. Creative delivery services and vegan food lines are an everyday part of the modern culinary experience, and many successful startups are taking advantage of this new revolution.
Delivery service easyFood is an online food ordering service that uses a new, cost effective subscription model in order to reduce the fees associated with ordering a takeaway. Co-founded by Gurpreet Sidhu (co-founder of Cross Border VAT and Jeewan Sagu) the food ordering service challenges the current status-quo, and offers an attractive alternative for fast, efficient and affordable online orders.
The simple premise is that one of the current challenges for both customer and restaurants using an online ordering service, is the associated fees. With companies like Deliveroo and Just Eat charging anywhere between 15-35% in return for the booking, restaurants can frequently see an increase in orders, but a significant decrease in profits.
In an attempt to stay profitable, restaurants will often have to inflate the price of any orders that come via a 3rd party app or website, ultimately passing the additional fees back to the consumer. By contrast, easyFood adopts a monthly subscription model of £100, a flat fee that remains consistent regardless of the number of orders that a restaurant receives.
The hope that is that the new subscription method preserves the profit margins for restaurants, and subsequently ensures that the cost of ordering a takeaway via a 3rd party app or website doesn’t come at a premium.
easyFood has been supported by easyJet founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, backed with an initial partnership with easyHotels, where guests can order food from the easyFood app, before it’s delivered directly to their hotel.
Serving over 200 restaurants at present (primarily in the Midlands) the aim is to collaborate with a further 400 restaurants over the coming months, before rolling the service out to the rest of the UK in early 2019.
Launched in 2004, Leon is a healthy fast food chain, with the aim of proving that just because food is fast, it doesn’t have to be bad for you. Their menu is inspired by the flavours and natural benefits of Mediterranean cooking with a few dishes thrown in from the founders’ British-based childhoods.
The Leon vision arose from co-founders John and Henry’s view of fast food. As children they both saw fast food chains as a treat, but as they got older realised it wasn’t a very healthy choice. The founders aimed to show the public that fast food doesn’t necessarily have to be fat-filled junk, but that it can be actively good for you. In 2004, this vision was realised with their first store in Carnaby Street, London.
Since then, Leon have made a real name for themselves in the world of healthy eating. Originally London-based, the chain has already expanded overseas with two stores in the Netherlands. With a recent £25m investment by a private equity banker, the company plans to expand further overseas and even test the US market. Revenue has also risen significantly, increasing by 58% in 2016 and exceeding the £50 million mark for the first time.
Natural Balance Foods
Natural Balance Foods began offering their wholesome creations in 2004, as an alternative to processed foods. The Buckinghamshire based company, started by California-born brothers Greg and Jamie Combs, offer a wide selection of healthy wholefood snacks. Products range from cereal bars to flapjacks, and aim to revolutionise the way we think about healthy snacking. Every single one is vegan, all-natural, gluten and additive free, and produced in the UK.
The story behind Natural Balance Food is a simple one. The team were aware people had low expectations when it came to healthy food products, and wanted to change that perspective. The range of snacks thy envisaged soon became a reality. Assembled from all natural ingredients, and still full of flavour, this company has re-invented the concept of healthy snacking. Their first and most enduring product was ‘Nakd bars’, a range of cereal bars and snacks. The company then aimed to cater for more active members of the public with its Trek bars, packed with protein and other essential ingredients to keep you going.
Natural Balance Foods have seen remarkable growth in recent years. Between 2015 and 2016 the company had a turnover of £32.9m, an increase of £10m on the year before. The success led to a deal with Lotus Bakeries, worth £60m, who acquired over 67% of the company. The founders have kept most of their other shares, and despite the deal will continue to lead and run the business.
The products are stocked in leading UK supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, and shipped throughout the UK. They’re also distributed across 27 countries overseas including Ireland, Luxembourg, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, and Sweden. There are also distribution websites in countries including Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands & Austria.
Founded by Guka Tavberidze in 2011, SaVse smoothies are produced differently to those from most other brands. SaVse cold-press the highest quality ingredients to ensure the essential fruit and vegetable goodness is kept in every single smoothie bottle. The London-based company provide a colourful selection of homemade smoothies in a variety of flavors.
Founder Guka grew up with his mother’s homemade smoothies, which she created whilst pregnant and in need of extra nutrients. Guka continued to drink these for years until life got busier, and he found it harder to maintain a healthy diet. He found shops only offered sugar-filled smoothies and thought it was time for a change. Guka then aimed to fill the shop shelves with homemade style smoothies made on a grand scale. After two years of testing and searching for better preservation methods, the very first SaVse product was made using high pressure processing. This non-thermal preservation method kills the bacteria without reducing fruit and vegetables’ nutritional value.
The smoothie company has had rapid success in the UK since launching in 2013, and over the last two years has become the UK’s fastest growing smoothie brand. As of 2018, the products are stocked in multiple major stores across the UK, including Harrods, Boots and Tesco. SaVse have also recently received the backing of AGC Equity Partners, at a stake of over 25%.
The brand has made the move to Ireland as the first cold-pressed smoothie company in the country. They aim to grow operations in Ireland, and are currently targeting deals with Tesco and Musgraves in a bid to comprise between five to ten percent of the overall turnover.
Established in 2007 by founder Graham Bosher, Graze is an online snack subscription service offering over 200 different snack combinations. The Graze boxes enable consumers to tailor their snack needs, and try a range of new flavours every month.
The founders of Graze hatched the idea when they realised supermarkets weren’t selling any exciting snacks for health-conscious office workers, and decided to create their own. After experimenting with flavours and introducing a subscription service, the first box was shipped in 2008.
In 2009, venture capital firms Draper Esprit and Octopus Ventures saw enough promise to back the business, and nearly a decade later still own minority stakes. Private equity firm Carlyle bought a majority stake in the business for £50m in 2013, and recently announced a £300m sale.
In 2013 Anthony Fletcher, Graze’s new CEO, took the business overseas to the US, and spread its subscription service across the States. Two years later, Graze introduced its products into UK retail stores. The products are today stocked in over 9,000 stores including many of the leading supermarkets, such as Tesco, Asda and Waitrose. Graze also launched into the US retail stores in 2016, and in the first five months had the products stocked in over 4,000 stores. Between 2016-2017 US sales were 3.2% higher than the previous year at £70.3m.
Grace Foods UK
Grace Foods UK was established in 2007 by Grace Kennedy, a US $1 billion global consumer goods and finance group company. The company manufactures Eastern, Caribbean and Tex-Mex meals and drinks, and supplies them throughout the UK’s supermarkets, restaurants and pubs.
The company already distributes its products overseas to Germany and Spain. In 2018, Grace Foods received a £6m funding package from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, allowing the company to continue its expansion in international markets. It also secured a £1m deal with Aldi to provide its Aloe Vera water in their Spanish stores.
Grace Foods also plans to continue its growth over the next five years, aiming to sell 40% of its products outside of the UK. The company currently has an annual turnover of £85m and boasts headquarters in Welwyn Garden City, alongside its 120,000 sq ft distribution facility.
The Malted Waffle Company
Founded and run by father-daughter duo Georges and Laura Barrett, The Malted Waffle Company formed in 1986, and offers a wide selection of waffle machines, waffle mixtures and pancake mixtures. Unlike the other companies on this list, their products are aimed at other businesses, allowing cafes and restaurants to create top quality waffles and pancakes for consumers.
Sharing their love of waffles with an assortment of hotels, restaurants, local cafes and guest houses, the family business has been prominent in the hospitality industry for decades. As a business, they aim to see their waffles bring a smile to customers across the world.
Following the success of 33% year on year growth between 2016-2017, the business is currently planning to expand overseas. They have secured funding from Santander, and set their sights on expanding further into Europe and the United Arab Emirates. The funding will also be used to drive growth over the next five years, growing the sales of the waffle mixture and increasing the leasing of waffle machines to the hospitality industry. The company currently employs 11 staff for operations, and is looking to increase its employee base to boost sales in the UK and overseas.