Founders Interview | Joe Taylor @ Real Handful
Hi I’m Joe, Co-Founder at Real Handful snacks.
I describe myself as a husband, (tired) dad to three boys and all round food and drink startup geek.
I’ve loved working in food and drink since 2008 with innocent, Kellogg and Heinz and in 2016 I launched Real Handful – we make healthier snacks packed with Unruly Flavour for busy households.
We’ve since grown the business and my wife Carly joined full time in 2019 too.
Why did you become interested in the world of snacks & drinks?
I was working at IBM after university and finding myself more and more jealous of my wife’s job working for a company that made all the curries for Wetherspoons. She’d spend her days meeting customers and tasting new products which I was sat writing contracts for IT infrastructure services that I barely understood!
So I thought it was time for a change and was very very fortunate to get a job at innocent drinks! I feel so fortunate to have made that leap when I did and the amazing fun and experiences I’ve had since.
What inspired you to do what you do?
I had trail mix (raisins, peanuts and M&Ms) back in the late 2000’s on a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon.
When I got back to the UK I started snacking on it regularly to fuel my Ironman triathlon training and kept wondering why there was nothing like it on the market.
Once I’d got a bit more experience I started to wonder whether I might understand enough to turn this idea into an reality!
What was your Eureka Moment when you knew you had a product which you could take to market?
Lots of testing on friends of family.
But the biggest proof point was digging into the data for the UK fruit & nut snacking market and seeing that >70% of the sales were coming from own label products.
It just gave me a real belief that a brand could help add value to the category and inspire more people to enjoy these kinds of snacks.
What current & future trends does your product meet?
I suppose trail mix appeals because it taps into the macro healthy-snacking trend.
But also because you still throw a bit of chocolate and other yummy stuff into a trail mix it still tastes awesome!
Trail Mix is now one of the fastest growing snacking categories globally with growth of over 10% every year.
What has been the hardest part of starting your business?
Managing cashflows and finances! Definitely new skills that I’ve had to learn the hard way.
What has been the BEST mistake you’ve made & why?
Hmmm maybe the time I travelled from my home in Manchester all the way to London for a first meeting with Sainsbury’s.
I had 30 minutes booked in with the buyer and 5 minutes into the meeting he apologised and said our snacks had nothing to do with his category.
Perhaps it was out of pity that off the back of this we did manage to meet the right Sainsbury’s buyer and they became our first National Grocery customer.
What keeps you motivated?
I still believe as strongly as I did when starting the company that there is a role for a brand like Real Handful to help inspire more households to eat more healthy snacks.
I’m now much (much much much!) more aware of just how bloody difficult it is to get to that point but hopefully we’ve learnt some lessons along the way and will keep improving what we do.
What do you do in your spare time outside of business life?
With Real Handful and 3 boys aged 3 to 8 years old life is pretty busy already.
But I love running, playing 5-a-side football and I help coach my eldest sons football team.
We also live in quite an old house so I end up doing plenty of DIY at weekends too.
What do you think are the key skills required to make yourself & your business a success in the world of snacks & drinks?
I don’t think it’s a dictator of success 100% of the time as there are plenty of people that ‘wing it’ in the world of food & drink.
But for me I like to always be open, honest and humble.
When I sit with customers I genuinely want to be collaborative and support their plans and hopefully that comes across because we want to be here for the long-term!
What would you say is your biggest strength?
Persistence. I never give up.
It’s what got me round my Ironman triathlons back in the day and I think it’s this that’s led to Real Handful still being here 4 years after launching.
What would you say is your biggest weakness & how do you look to overcome this?
I’m not great at delegating unfortunately, I still get too involved in all areas of the business.
Carly joining last year has been a massive help as I now have a Co-Founder to share that load with. But moving forward I think the easiest way to solve this is to put in a structure that allows experts to support the business as there are lots and lots of things that I am not an expert in!
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?
Definitely over a coffee, I’ve been strictly no&low alcohol since 2018!
My three tips would be:
- Move faster with our new product development plans
- Don’t launch a new product without clear category data and having tested our products in stores with consumers
- Don’t stress too much about Brexit, you’re going to have other things to worry about in 2020!
Any plans or predictions you can share with us for the rest of 2020?
Wow what a question after the most bizarre and challenging few months ever.
Of course 2020 and COVID-19 has been brutally tough for lots and lots of businesses ourselves included.
But I think the emergence of more people shopping online and a more fragmented market is going to push brands like Real Handful to innovate faster & better than ever. ‘me too’ products are just not going to cut it anymore and snack brands like us are going to have to rise to the challenge and offer more products that are nutritious, sustainable, great value and more importantly than anything really really delicious.
We’re definitely up for the challenge!!