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Founders Interview | Hamish McCall & Katja Thrane @ POP

Founders Interview | Hamish McCall & Katja Thrane @ POP

Katja Thrane and Hamish McCall founded POP in 2019 to bring delicious peanut based protein and fibre bars to the masses. POP Protein + Fibre bars are the future of healthy snacking.

At POP we’re here to burst the healthy confectionery bubble. And our weapon of choice is the humble little peanut. Packed with good stuff like protein, fibre and the right kind of fat, they make incredible tasting bars without the need for sugar-heavy dates. That’s why we’re nuts about peanuts.

POP is all about celebrating the heroic power of the humble peanut. We only use whole air-roasted peanuts for their taste, health and environmental benefits.

POP Protein + Fibre bars contain 8g protein, are high in fibre, vegan, gluten free and contain zero refined sugar or palm oil. POP bars contain 40% less sugar than other healthy snack bars.

We proudly donate 1% of turnover to Project Peanut Butter, a charity working to eradicate famine in Africa.

Why did you become interested in the world of snacks & drinks?

Hamish has previously launched and sold kids drinks brand Happy Monkey and raw coconut water brand Unoco.

Katja Thrane has a background in marketing working for the likes of Bacardi and Emirates before becoming marketing director for Rebel Kitchen.

Hamish and Katja are on a mission to make healthy snacking less complicated and more transparent, more nutritious and a whole lot tastier.

What inspired you to do what you do?

We felt the snack bar market was dominated by date based, sugar heavy bars that didn’t taste particularly good. And the protein category, more often than not, is led by brands that contain a lot of weird and wonderful ingredients.

There looked like there was a space for someone to deliver a great tasting snack bar containing plant-based protein and fibre with a relatively low sugar content, using natural ingredients that tasted amazing and didn’t cost the earth.

What was your Eureka Moment when you knew you had a product which you could take to market?

Concentrating on a single core ingredient, the humble peanut, gave us a focus for our products and a clear point of difference from everyone else in the category.

Some of our pre-launch assumptions were wrong though; luckily we were able to make some tweaks to our recipe so that we can make the product claims we now know people really care about such as ‘100% vegan’.  

What current & future trends does your product meet?

POP is made with sustainable plant-based protein, it’s high in fibre, it’s vegan, it’s gluten free, contains less sugar and 1% of turnover goes to Project Peanut Butter.

What did you do before starting your company & what made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?

Hamish has been launching new brands into the UK market since 2006. Katja had worked for other brands and felt it was time to take the exciting step of launching her own brand with Hamish.

What has been the hardest part of starting your business?

Realising we hadn’t got it right at the start and having to make some fundamental changes within the first 10 months of trading.

What has been the BEST mistake you’ve made & why?

Not sure we have a favourite mistake but the sooner you can realise when something is a mistake, the better. That way you can rectify it or pivot the business to ensure it doesn’t become a fatal mistake.

What keeps you motivated?

Knowing we have a great product and brand that really does good for our customers, the planet and the charity we choose to support.

What do you do in your spare time outside of business life?

Hamish can be found on a mountain top (skiing in winter, cycling in summer) and you can find Katja trawling vintage fairs for fixer-upper furniture.

What do you think are the key skills required to make yourself & your business a success in the world of snacks & drinks?

Perseverance, planning and sound commercials.

What would you say is your biggest strength?

Tenacity, endurance and a small amount of delusion.

You face so many obstacles and set-backs launching a new brand, for POP into a massively competitive category, that without the ability to re-set on an almost daily basis you would probably give-up.

It’s also crucial to not take the set-backs personally, it’s just the market telling you what you need to change and improve.

What would you say is your biggest weakness & how do you look to overcome this?

It’s very difficult not to take the set-backs you face along the way personally.

You have to remember every day is a new start. And, ultimately, hard work and perseverance wins.

The good thing about having a co-founder is that you can take turns to be the cheerleader and keep each other looking at the bright side.

If you could sit down with yourself for a pint/glass of wine/coffee this time last year.....what would be the 3 most important tips you would give yourself knowing what you know now?

Own your IP

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Playing in a competitive category means that it takes longer to cut through the competition and make an impact with buyers and customers alike.

Trust your gut instinct. If it’s telling you something fundamental isn’t working; listen and act decisively.

Any plans or predictions you can share with us for the rest of 2020?

We are now available nationwide through e-commerce and we’re starting to branch out internationally within the EU.

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