Snackzilla - The journey to starting your own food business

We came across Snackzilla on Instagram and immediately fell in love with the brand. We love the idea of a healthy biscuit and can confirm they are delicious. Added bonus – Snackzilla’s packaging is also plastic free and fully recyclable. We were fortunate to chat with Marieke from Snackzillla about her career and how she set up her brand.

Tell us a bit about yourself

First and foremost I’m a mum of two boys, aged 8 and 6, so that also makes me a full time taxi driver!

I’ve 18 years’ experience working in the private and not-for-profit.  Up until 2017 I was the COO of a successful start-up business, London Craft Week, but my love of food, branding and kids has taken me to start up my own new business. I’ve successfully raised seed funding and I am looking to launch into premium retailers in 2019.

I am also a mentor for the Princes Trust and am passionate about supporting young entrepreneurs.

What made you start SNACKZILLA?

Finding products for my kid’s lunchbox and after school snacks started to become a struggle, as the boys were getting older the usual crackers, oat bars and dried fruit products were not cutting it. They were being influenced by brands and what friends were having, and I needed products that I could chuck in their football bags, or eat on the go when rushing from swimming to scouts.

We’ve always been biscuit addicts in our household, and so I started to wonder, is there a healthier biscuit product out there that was nutritionally formulated for kids, but branded in a cool way which would appeal to older children. I realised there was a gap in the market, and so decided to see if we could make my Great Grandmothers oat biscuit recipe (which I had grown up making, and my kids loved too) into a healthier version.

How did you come up with your flavours?

The original recipe was a buttery vanilla flavour so vanilla was always going to remain in homage to my Great Grandmother. I found out early on that chocolate biscuits are the number one selling product in the category, so chocolate was a commercial decision! We created about 5 flavours when we started development and raspberry was the clear winner when we tested them with over 100 children, so that made the cut too.

We love your plastic free packaging, we imagine it took a while to source, how did you go about the process?

When I started this journey I wanted a plastic free wrapper, but everyone kept telling me it was a ridiculous commercial decision due to the high cost, high minimum order quantities and impact on the shelf life of the cookies. I was determined however that it was what my customers wanted and my belief that businesses all have a social and environmental obligation to use sustainable materials whenever possible. After a year of looking, I found a 100% virgin paper fibre that can be recycled with your paper recycling and is industrially compostable. The pace public perception has moved regarding single use plastic has astounded me, especially the education and demand from children themselves.

What have you found to be your biggest challenge with setting up your business?

Apart from the packaging, finding the right manufacturing partner for me was quite a challenge. It took over a year of searching and visiting bakeries, across the country and EU, and many a time I thought I would have to give up or raise a heck of a lot of money and build a bakery myself! I knew as soon as I visited my bakery that they were the one. It’s a family run nut free site in Yorkshire, and they have been so supportive and kind, taking a massive leap of faith in me and the product.

What has been your biggest high so far with the business?

The greatest high so far has been the reaction to the product from children. Most children love cookies, but I’m amazed at the feedback to SNACKZILLA given that they are 45% less sugar than the average sweet biscuit, but kids don’t seem to notice! One child I know who has a sensory perception disorder can’t eat anything soft, and hates trying new things, but last week he tried a SNACKZILLA cookie and loved it. His mum was in tears and its these small wins that make me realise all the hard work has been worth it.

Do you have any special plans with the launch of your biscuit range?

We are planning on launching later this year with a nationwide retailer. The kids wrote and filmed a rap video with their cousins to accompany the launch, so we can’t wait for that to hit YouTube!

What one piece of advice would you give for people looking to start a food business?

From the beginning think about your 5-10 year plan so you can plan in scalability from the start. This needs to involve raising enough money, finding a manufacturer that can scale with you and creating a brand that can be flexible and adaptive to changes in the market. 

Check out the website for more information about the brand.