“2021 is the renaissance of food and drink.” So our host Ben ceremoniously declared as he was joined onstage by three outstanding founders in the food and drink industry to help the startups of tomorrow with their invaluable insight.

After a difficult past year for hospitality, the foodie business is back and booming - whether it’s a skyrocketing demand for quality street food at open air markets across the country, the growth of food and grocery delivery, or consumers with a taste for independent brands that embody their sustainable values. 

At our July MeetUp, we spoke to big names in the food and drink business to get their wisdom on exactly how to start and scale a food and drink brand in 2021 - here’s what we learnt from Ben Branson, founder of Seedlip Drinks, Vivien Wong, co-founder of Little Moons and Neil Potts, COO and co-founder of The Vurger Co. 

Virgin StartUp MeetUp
Neil Potts, Vivien Wong & Ben Branson

“Trust your gut and push back on the critics who say your idea won’t work”  - Ben Branson

When it comes to the foodie space, to cut through the noise your product has to do something different. Whether that’s a new angle on an existing product, or an altogether new alternative, it’s essential you break some boundaries in such a competitive industry. 

When Ben started Seedlip Drinks, he told us that he faced lots of criticism. People thought the industry wasn’t ready for luxury non-alcoholic alternatives, because no one was doing it. 

But, Ben told us, that’s where Seedlip’s success lies. Now considered a pioneer in the industry, who’s made waves far greater than the critics thought were possible, Ben told our viewers at the MeetUp: “I am now so glad I didn’t listen to all the people that told me Seedlip Drinks wouldn’t work.” 

Ben Branson founder of Seedlip Drinks
Ben Branson, founder of Seedlip Drinks

“When trying to get your products out there on supermarket shelves, you know the buyers are so busy. You email, and expect to wait 6 months for a response. But keep going and you’ll get there.”  - Vivien Wong

Persistence and patience pay, and Viven’s story has been years in the making. That said, she had reassuring words for founders. The Little Moons team are now struggling to keep up with the incredible demand for their products, but it wasn’t always that way. By persevering, networking, testing your product and refining your offering, you’ll slowly get out there and start to see results. 

Vivien shared how she started offering her mochi snacks to Japanese restaurants in the beginning, as she thought mainstream consumers weren’t ready for them. It became clear after two years that the time had come to get the snacks in the supermarket, as Little Moons brand recognition was growing from their partnerships with restaurants - and demand heavily increased. 

Vivien Wong
Vivien Wong, co-founder of Little Moons

“Just get out there and demonstrate your product. It’s the easiest way to cultivate a true following of loyal customers.” Neil Potts 

Food and drink startups have a unique opportunity: there are plenty of ways to test your startup’s offering with the public before you get it to the stage where you’re looking to scale. Often, starting off at food markets is the best way to grow a new fan base, because you get to demonstrate your product to hungry customers. 

Rather than just shouting about how good your offering is online, trying to persuade followers to buy in, you can experientially show them why it’s so great and they can find it out for themselves. Neil reminisced about the early days and told us: “We worked events selling our burgers at stalls before opening our restaurant. The product improved and we attracted a following. You have to get out there and get something rolling.” 

The world is changing rapidly, and that’s undoubtable. But with new ways of life come new opportunities, and now is as good a time as any to start and scale in this growing and dynamic industry. 

Find out how a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp could support your business today.