All food businesses, even the household names, started somewhere – and often that somewhere is the kitchen table, quite literally. Foraging Fox make delicious beetroot ketchup, a recipe inspired by a bumper crop of beetroot in founder Frankie Fox’s garden – here how’s they went from trying the recipe out on friends to getting people excited in the USA.
Who we are
The company name is in homage to my late father; a plant and fungi expert who I used to go foraging with as a child. He instilled the principle that you don’t waste good food - you just become more inventive with it! The Foraging Fox began life when I had a bumper harvest of beetroot and apples in my garden to use and I wanted to make something everyone would want to eat.
It started out as giving away samples to family and family in return for feedback. It took three years of experimenting in the kitchen with my kids to perfect the first ketchup recipe. The children were involved as chief tasters and brand consultants. I wouldn’t go anywhere without new samples to test. I remember bringing 12 kilner jars of it to a friend’s party, all with slight recipe and texture variations and forcing all the guests to blind taste them to give their honest feedback. They have invited me back since, thankfully!
So we decided to see if we had a market or not by booking a small producer stand at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair in September 2014 and sampling my new idea to the public.
This Trade Fair attracts the most discerning individuals in the Fine Food sector so I wasn’t expecting them to be quite as kind as my friends and family! My old colleague and friend Desiree helped on my stand at the show. To our amazement and relief, the show as a huge success with interest from retailers, distributors and exporters, and was proof enough to us that there was significant potential for the product - so we decided to launch the company there and then.
Our first priority was to scale up manufacturing, and we then needed to scale distribution. We found a great team to work with on manufacturing side who respected our product and our vision. It’s incredibly difficult to turn a recipe developed with home-grown ingredients on an AGA to scaled manufactured production. It had to be the best quality ingredients and cooking process to be as good as my handmade product.
When looking at potential routes to market we decided that selling an unknown brand with a product packaged in a heavy glass bottle online didn’t make sense to us at the time of launch, mainly due to the cost of posting and package being similar to the cost of the product itself. As mothers of young children we did not want to spend our weekends travelling across the country selling bottles as one-off purchases on market stalls or at shows - we wanted to target regular repeat customers. We needed our ketchup to be sold in shops across the UK, so approaching stockists and having a distributor with relationships with a network of shops was the best initial route to market for us.
We were fortunate enough to have a huge amount of support from our UK distributor who we met at our first trade show, and they helped spread the word to their customers for our launch. In return we supported our distributor and our stockists by offering samples and supported in-store sampling over our launch months to reach new customers and boost sales.
Looking at opportunities outside the UK
At the Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2014, we received interest from a total of 20 territories outside the UK. We started to explore these opportunities with the help from our UKTI officer and set a priority target list and set to researching the specific market and the opportunity. Our first export deal was to Sweden in January 2015, an EU country which loved beetroot, barbecuing, and where English was widely spoken. We worked hard with our distributor on label translations to ensure our ketchups adhered to their local food labelling requirements. We were absolutely thrilled that we were suddenly had international customers enjoying our beetroot ketchups!
We first met our US importer when he came by our stand at a trade show in September 2015 and tasted our beetroot ketchups, liked them, and so we started discussions from there. We went through the long, drawn-out process of researching the US market with him to see if there was a gap for our product there at our price point.
Once we agreed there was a potential opportunity we embarked on getting our ketchups ready for the US market. This involved going through the US food import regulations and creating new label designs to adhere to US nutritional and labelling legislation, and ensuring all our point of sales marketing material was suitable for the US market. This process took a fair amount of time and money and we were finally ready with our first shipment exported December 2016 - over a year after we first met our US importer!
Exporting to the US
We agreed with our importer that the best way to test the US market and work out the correct price point was pretty much the same way that we had done in the UK. So I flew out to San Francisco with a pop-up sampling stand, and my lucky red jacket in my luggage to “speed date” buyers and sample our ketchups on our importer’s stand for three days at the Winter Fancy Food Show. We couldn’t have picked a better timing as “beets” were the latest food trend at the show - so we received a huge amount of interest from the press and buyers at the show for our ketchups and I spent the three days run off my feet talking. It was an enormous amount of fun, the people were friendly, supportive and gave great, open and honest feedback on the product and price point. A complete baptism of fire on learning a new market!
We spent the next week diligently following up all our leads and reworking all our numbers together with our importer based on the commercial feedback from the show, building forecasts and completing yet more paperwork. And two weeks later we were absolutely delighted that we had secured a regional listing with Wholefoods Markets across the Mid West with a view to launch in May as a result of one of the “meet the buyer” meetings with a regional distributor. We're excited about what's to come!
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