Interview with Peter Ahye, Founder of Freaks of Nature
Our principal of Consumer Manufacturing, Sarah Simpson, spoke to Peter Ahye about his recent success in the food manufacturing space.
It’s safe to say your story is a great one and very different to most. An ACA PWC trained FD who moved into consultancy and has now developed a fantastic dessert business. How did Freaks of Nature start? Where did the idea come from?
Well, to go back to the beginning I guess I have always had that entrepreneurial spark, always wanted to do something different. Even when my parents had a farm in Trinidad and I was selling mangos and avocados as a kid. The “free from” desserts idea started when I was chatting to a vegan lady at a cricket match in Headingley and it became apparent that desserts were always an issue – a fruit salad is not a pudding I was told! So with much research and many hours walking the floor in retailers up and down the country and a distinct lack of competitors in the chilled market, I decided to focus my efforts here. The key though had to be creating great tasting products which happened to be dairy, gluten, soya and egg free with no artificial additives or preservatives. Get rid of the junk - I don’t expect to buy a dessert with pork or beef gelatine in it!
I hired a space at Leeds Beckett University to conduct development trials and a London agency to do the branding and tone of voice. Freaks of Nature was born out of us creating great tasting puds using only natural ingredients. Next time you buy a dessert, check the back of pack and you will be amazed (and disappointed) at what goes in to your food.
So, Freaks of Nature was formed and we launched our nut based product at Lunch! 2016 which is the UK’s largest “Food to Go” tradeshow. To our absolute amazement and delight we won the gold award for innovation. Following that, Tesco asked for a launch in March and then it was all hands on deck to find a production facility, staff, equipment and everything else…
What differentiates you from your competitors like Gu?
Our products are gluten free, dairy free, soya free and contain no eggs or white sugar – bang on trend for at least 10 million UK consumers who are reducing their intake of those products. We are a nut based product with distinctive flavours that come from naturally sourced products, with nothing artificial. Our sugar and saturated fat contents are much lower as well. You can count the number of ingredients in our puds on two hands, with others it might take you two days!
What have been your high and low points along the way of building this business?
One of the highs was definitely when one of our customers shared our puds internally and said we are a truly innovative and forward-thinking business. Tesco came on board, then Waitrose, and many others. That was a great high. I would describe the low points more as challenges…. The biggest challenge is constantly answering the question “how do we get more and more people to try and recommend our puds?” It keeps pushing you on, keeps you motivated.
Do you have any plans to expand the line?
We were born out of innovation and shall continue to do so. We will shortly be launching up to 10 products over the coming months, and that is just the start. Eventually, we will expand into other markets outside the UK and perhaps look at products in other categories, as we love the Freaks of Nature brand. Plenty of ideas and avenues to go down.
You are currently in with Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose, Planet Organic to name a few and some local stockists: Fodder, Out of this World… What’s next?
We are talking to several other outlets - retailers, independents and food service. We are on with building our social media awareness through twitter (@FreaksOfNPuds), Instagram (@freaksofnaturepuds) and Facebook (FreaksOfNaturePuds). Go on and see what our consumers are saying!
Sarah Simpson is the Principal of Consumer Manufacturing at Interim Partners.