Podcast #30: Andrew speaks with Jessica Harris, Founder of Little Bandits about her journey and their delicious dairy-free yogurt. 

Big Idea Ventures has launched our very own podcast “The Big Idea Podcast: Food”. Each week Big Idea Ventures Founder Andrew D. Ive will speak with some of the most innovative minds in the food space and talk about the exciting projects they are a part of. 

To listen to the episode click the links below!

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SUMMARY KEYWORDS

product, dairy, yoghurt, yogurt, people, nurseries, bandits, child, uk, big, parents, allergies, challenging, kids, asda, families, buyers, business, sugar, jonah

SPEAKERS

Andrew D Ive, Jess Harris

 

Andrew D Ive  

Hi there. This is Andrew from Big Idea Ventures. This is the Big Idea podcast where we focus on food. We’re going to be talking to Jessica Harris. Jessica is the co founder of Hungry Little Bandits. It’s a plant based yogurt company, based in the UK and Jessica started the company because of her son’s allergies. The product is incredible. Jessica is incredible. The whole team’s incredible. Let’s have a conversation with them, and by all means, if you have questions or comments, please do leave them for us. Hello, welcome to the Big Idea podcast where we focus on food. How are you today by Hi, Andrew.

 

Jess Harris  

I’m good thank you and thank you so much for inviting me.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Of course. So we’re both in our homes. We’ve got the COVID thing going on, so anything could happen. The mailman or an aeroplane could, I don’t know drop an engine on the back lawn. There’s all sorts of crazy shit that, excuse me, crazy stuff that could go on.

 

Jess Harris  

Probably most likelyiis that my little son will come and make an appearance that’ll be the most likely one to happen. And that will be fun.

 

Andrew D Ive  

My dog is looking at me like he wants to I don’t know, bite my leg off or something. Anyway, why don’t we get into it Jessica Harris, and Little Bandits and find out more about what you guys do.

 

Jess Harris  

Yeah, please. So Little Bandits. We’re the dairy free brand for kids and really the business has been inspired by my experiences. So my son’s got food allergies, Jonah, he’s six and he’s allergic to dairy and soya. We got incredibly frustrated that there was nothing on the shelf for him that was either healthy to eat and tasted good. So that’s how Little Bandits was born.born.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So where are you today?

 

At home in Lewis, which is in Sussex in the UK. Talking to you from our attic as I don’t have an office. So I’m still very much home working with our small team that we’ve got. But yeah, it’s good.

 

Andrew D Ive  

For those watching the video, behind you is a cartoon character. One of the little bandits?

 

Jess Harris  

That’s right, these are our banditos. So they are on all our packs as well and that’s the brand that has been inspired by my son, but I didn’t want Jonah’s name to be the brand. I wanted it to be inspired by him. So it’s kind of bits of character from him but also, I guess it’s meant to symbolize childhood. So all that’s fun and carefree about being a child and these mischievous little creatures, just kind of embodying that experience of childhood. A carefree childhood and you should not be really worried about what you’re eating, it should just be fun. You know, food should be fun, right? And that’s what we’re trying to make little bandits.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So when you talk about these mischievous little creatures, talking about the kids or the characters?

 

Jess Harris  

Well, exactly, that’s what I’m saying. They kind of like are the same. And we’ve done them kind of quite androgynous, so they can be boys or girls. There’s no gender there. And there, yeah, they kind of embody all the personality of childhood.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Awesome. So yogurts are the first set of products, you’ve got how many.

 

Jess Harris  

So we’ve got three skews, but only two on the market at the moment. So strawberry and banana on the market and our apple and pear. We’re really excited to launch it. So we’re working hard on that. And the strawberry and the banana are on sale at Asda currently, and also being served in nurseries across the southeast.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So one of the things I get asked a lot about whether it’s at a conference or on a panel or something is, don’t plant based products have too many ingredients, too much sugar, too much stuff. Now, obviously, one of the ways I respond to them is generation one of these products, you know, three years ago, five years ago or longer, maybe were all very much about trying to accomplish taste and they did it through hook or by crook, but more and more generation to generation three products are really taking on board this simplicity, less ingredients less sugar. How does Little Bandit stack up in that sort of area?

 

Jess Harris  

I suppose we’ve also been on a bit of journey. So we saw an opportunity, a gap in the market, we wanted to move really quickly. So we went really quickly into it with a coconut based sugar, which we knew kids liked, which was allergy friendly, so it kind of ticked a lot of boxes. And we are now in our second iteration of that product and we are bringing down the coconut levels and making it a healthier product. 

 

Jess Harris  

But we’ve always got a commitment to being low sugar, and our ingredient deck is pretty simple. There’s not a lot awful lot of ingredients in it. It’s literally fruit purees, starch, coconut water and a few natural flavorings. So we’re kind of keeping it as clean as we can. One of the things we have struggled with over time is sugar. The yogurt category is rife with sugar, right? It’s really, really high and our yogurt has got 50% less sugar than the leading kids dairy brands. 

 

Jess Harris  

Our strawberry has actually got some sugar in it but we’ll always be below the five grams per 100 grams of sugar. And it’s just because that flavor is actually really hard to get and we don’t want to put lots of artificial sweeteners in it, we want to try and achieve that as naturally as possible but still keeping it well ahead of the yogurt category, which we are.

 

Jess Harris  

We’ve also got 25% more calcium in our yoghurt.. So it’s really important that we are fortifying our products so that parents didn’t feel they were having to compromise on some of the nutrition they would get from dairy. So we’ve got 25% more calcium, we’ve got iodine. We’re the first kids plant based yogurts to have iodine, which is also really important in early childhood development, and that’s from natural seaweed. Then we have vitamins B, 12, and D.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So iodine from seaweed. That makes it sound like it’s not going to taste very good, but I’ve tasted it tastes amazing. So how do you how do you accomplish that?

 

Jess Harris  

So seaweed in a tiniest, tiniest amount is all you need because you don’t want to over compensate for it. So it’s really small amounts and it’s very neutral in flavor. We’ve worked and this came from a conversation I was having with someone whose actual professional name is Dr. Seaweed and he really knows his stuff. He was the one who created these amazing products using a tiny bit of his product into our yoghurt to get that fortification. And it’s all sustainable where some of the seaweeds I know, aren’t a sustainable source of protein.

 

Andrew D Ive  

I really applaud the sustainability focus. We often choose companies, not often, we always choose companies with that focus. But what made you come from that direction? I mean, obviously, originally, the goal was to create a product that your son, who had allergies, could consume and enjoy and be just like every other kid out there from a health perspective, but now you’re kind of covering off simplicity of product, low sugar fortification, sustainable, there’s a lot of boxes to try and check. What made you want to go in those different directions.

 

Jess Harris  

Jonah was diagnosed really young. He was diagnosed at three months old, which is a lot younger than a lot of children who have cow’s milk allergy, are diagnosed. He was picking it up through my breast milk. So I was eating dairy, and I was passing on to him, and then he’d have a reaction within 72 hours. So it’s quite hard at the beginning to pinpoint what it was. But once I pinpointed what it was, once we got him diagnosed, obviously, I cut out dairy from my diet because I wanted to carry on breastfeeding him. 

 

Jess Harris  

So then I started reading and doing a lot of research online about dairy, not just in the form of allergies, but actually understanding the industry a bit more and understanding the sustainability arguments a bit more. Suddenly, I was like, Okay, this is not great. I was a big cheese fan so cheese was the thing that was really hard to give up, but obviously, you’ll do anything for your child. So that bit was easy, but then I’ve not gone back to it. I’ve made a decision, a life choice that I don’t want to go back to eating dairy. 

 

Jess Harris  

So there was a personal enlightenment, I suppose along the way. And then in terms of the impact that so many things are having on the environment and food is one of them, and the way we eat and the way we live. And I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t creating and adding to that problem as best I could. So all of our packaging is recyclable. We haven’t yet come up with something better for yogurt, because there isn’t one that exists as far as I know. So it’s plastic, but it is recycled parts and all our lids are recyclable and the outer sleeves are recyclable. And the box that we deliver in is recyclable. So we’re trying, wherever we can, to make sure we’re having a minimal negative impact on the world. 

 

Jess Harris  

I think that’s why we’re seeing the increase in people moving to flexitarianism and plant based diets, for reasons around environment and health. They want to be able to live that way as a family, I think quite often is because they don’t have choices, and they don’t want to compromise on nutrition. So when it comes to their children, they will still be giving them things that they think are the best, obviously the best for their health. So we wanted to come up with something that provides a nice alternative for people who might just be trying to cut down and reduce as well as actually people who want to be moving to a plant based diet.

 

Andrew D Ive  

What kind of feedback have you been getting from parents? Testimonials, you know, just sort of conversations in the school corridors and that sort of thing. What are people thinking about the product?

 

Jess Harris  

So I think most of our feedback is via social media at the moment and obviously, I suppose, because we’re still small, our number of followers is still small and growing, we’re getting really high quality engagement. So the feedback we’re getting is, you know, in some cases is life changing, right, because they’ve been families with kids with allergies that haven’t had choice before, they’ve never tasted yogurt before. And so a lot of it is about feeling included. 

 

Jess Harris  

So our brand is about trying to come up with an inclusive brand, that all children won’t feel different, right? You don’t want your child to feel different at school, you don’t want them to feel different at parties. And so we’ve come up with a brand that hopefully doesn’t pinpoint a child’s difference, but actually, it’s just a fun  brand that all kids like to eat. And I think we’re hitting that. 

 

Jess Harris  

And also one of the biggest barriers for families who have to choose these products is usually price. Now we are more expensive, there’s no way we can make it the same price as dairy as dairy is exceptionally subsidized here in the UK, and I’m sure it is in other parts of the world. But we are still not at a point where it’s acting as a barrier to those who need it, and that was really important. 

 

Jess Harris  

So our margins might be slightly smaller than maybe some average ones in the food industry but that was very purposeful. If we made it too expensive. family budgets couldn’t stretch to it, there would be no point, you wouldn’t be answering the problem that we were seeking to solve. So we’ve tried to make it a really good price and we haven’t had anybody complain about that, which was a big achievement for us.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So the price is within what 5% 10% of dairy yogurt?

 

Jess Harris  

No, no, it’s higher. But we’re not the most expensive dairy free brand out there and we at the moment, we’re out selling Asda, so I don’t know if your viewers will know Asda. It’s a store for budget shoppers, someone who’s might be on a smaller budget than those that go to Waitrose, and we still managed to achieve a decent rate of sale for a product that’s sort of still niche in many cases. And I think that’s a testament and we haven’t had any complaints. :Before we were launched, we were having people saying please don’t make it three pounds a pot. Because it is a big barrier for families.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Well the product tastes great. From a packaging perspective, it’s really impactful. You look at it, and you’re like, wow, I actually want to try this thing. And then you try it and it tastes as good, if not better, than a dairy equivalent. So I’m guessing there are people out there who haven’t even figured out that it’s non dairy yet. They’re just sort of, oh, here’s a new yogurt. I’ll try this, take it home, consume it, and then don’t even realize that it’s non dairy at all.

 

Jess Harris  

We sit in the free from section but the chillers are right next to each other. But we are definitely in the free from section next to the dairy section. So it’s not very far that people have to travel. But I think people probably do know that it’s coconut based, so you can taste coconut. So you’re not going to like if you don’t like coconut. The one thing that is challenging for us is when you go to an older age range, the older of the eldest of our age range, when kids might be used to sweetie yogurts. So that has been where we might struggle a little bit. But kids growing up on it, the younger kids having it they really enjoy it. And the parents enjoy it because they know the sugar is so much lower than its counterparts.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Perfect. So do you come from a food background? Is this one of many products you’ve launched in your life?

 

Jess Harris  

Absolutely not. This has been a steep learning curve for me. My background is in international development for 21 years. So for nonprofits, if you’ve put the US audience in fundraising and strategy and program development, which has been amazing, but I was ready for change. But I’ve got a co founder whose background is in food, which is amazing, because when I started this journey, I was doing it as a solo founder and you know, my first objective was to get a mentor who knew the industry. I did that and that was amazing and she really helped me and ideally I wanted a co founder but you can’t just always magic one that you’re going to connect with, that it’s going to work well with. 

 

Jess Harris  

So Lucy, Lucy Orton is my co founder and she’s got 17 years experience in the food industry, specifically in product development. And she also launched the first free from chill dessert business to the UK called Pedology which she ran for several years and was really successful at, with distribution in Sainsbury’s and Asda and Occardo. She’s been brilliant ta have on board. Really complements my lack of knowledge.

 

Jess Harris  

She start as your mentor and then gravitates towards founder or are the two separate?

 

Jess Harris  

Two separate people? Yeah. So my mentor had done a couple of startups, and she’s a startup advisor now and she connected me to product developers in the beginning, and they connected me to a manufacturer. But I met Lucy in 2019. So a mutual contact John Stapleton who was the founder of Covent Garden suit, you might have heard, you might know him. He said to me, You really must speak to Lucy. Like, she’ll be able to share so much knowledge and learning. 

 

Jess Harris  

Lucy made the decision to liquidate her business so I was like, this is the worst time to be contacting this lady but I rang her up and she sain actually this is the best time because I didn’t know what I was going to do next. So she came on as a consultant, and I was her first client. We worked together for six months, really, to help me get to launch into Asda and then she came on as co founder. So it was amazing. We had six months of working together, knew how it was working, knew it was gonna work and so that’s the best thing that you could ask for, having had that previous kind of experience working with one another before you enter that kind of relationship.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So you worked in an NGO? 

 

Jess Harris  

Yes.

 

Andrew D Ive  

You found out that your son had allergies when he was about three months old? 

 

Jess Harris  

Yeah. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

You had a lightbulb moment with, I’m going to go create a company that solves this problem for kids throughout the world. I’m just wondering, how do you go from where you were to, you know, little bandits and a decision to go all in on solving this problem.

 

Jess Harris  

So I guess it always wanted to start my own business you know, it’s always been something niggling me in the back and I was a consultant. So I guess in some ways, I did have my own business but it was an international development and I was really ready for change. I’d been doing that for 21 years and I was desperate for change.

 

Jess Harris  

  Obviously Jonah came along and I found it incredibly challenging, as a first time mom, facing this set of circumstances with him and I was on all these groups, all these other allergy parents giving lots of support to each other. It was really a surprise, when we started to came to weaning him that I realized, well hang about, there’s a real gap here. 

 

Jess Harris  

Plant based is booming, free form is taking off but there’s this demographic of children and families that are being completely forgotten and yet the prevalence rate in kids is so much higher than it is in adults with food allergies, and no one’s catering for them. Isn’t this like a glaring opportunity? A need? And so I went out to the communities that I was part of and did research. Some 240 parents responded to my research and I asked loads of different questions. 

 

Jess Harris  

Responses were also from parents like me, who gave up dairy, to see what they felt they were missing. Then of course, it was our notes, all about the kids. One of the questions I asked was “what do you find hard to source for your child with allergies, that would otherwise be easy or is easy for other kids?” And then overwhelmingly people came back and said, dairy free yoghurt. 

 

Jess Harris  

And it was like, bam, of course, there’s nothing there. And then I think about my experience, and I was growing up, my parents would just give me a yoghurt as a really easy, healthy dessert and so that’s where the idea came from, for yogurts as our starting point. I just felt passionate about our children, and desperate, you know.  Jonah has always known he is different and I can see a time where he might start to feel excluded. When he goes to birthday parties, I’ve got used to it now and I bring all food substitutes with me. 

 

Jess Harris  

But you know, there was a lunch box that they were all given and it had a baby bell in it, and it had a cheese sandwich in it and it had crisps that have milk in them. And an apple which he could have but that was it. He could have the apple and it was just suddenly realizing that dairy is in so many things. So it’s not just the birthday cake you need to think of, and that’s hard enough that he feels like he misses out on. 

 

Jess Harris  

One party was heart breaking,  he was like, Mommy, can I have some cake? No, sorry, it’s got dairy, but I’ve got your case. Jonah said “But can I just hold it?” because it was a beautiful kid friendly cake. All he wanted to do was have a bit of the birthday cake. And so I guess making sure your child can feel included and a part of things, you know, like birthday parties or Easter egg counts. And so yeah, it was coming up with a product that hopefully lots of children can enjoy. Not just those who can’t have dairy, but all children.

 

Andrew D Ive  

I think one of the things that I find really exciting about what you’re doing, and some of the other folks are doing in this space, is the products are not sort of shadow experiences to the original, they’re not almost as good or almost as tasty, or almost as you know, whatever. Kids using these products are not having a second rate, anything versus the original. And I love that, I love that. It’s not only that they’re included, but it’s that they’re having the same experience, but just in a slightly different way. 

 

Jess Harris  

Thank you. Thank you. That’s great to hear and that’s definitely what we’re aiming for, but we know we must keep improving. And so, you know, we’ve just done an HFSS reformulation of our current yoghurt and we’ve got big ideas. So we want to do another iteration of our yoghurt, where we can get a higher protein content into what we’re doing, and making maybe a slightly more sustainable base than coconut. So we’re constantly looking at ways we can keep improving. And that’s really exciting.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Oh, here’s the craziest thing. We were recently at a dinner together, where a French chef had taken some of your ingredient and used it yoghurt, your regular kids friendly yoga. And he had turned it into this, like, incredible corden bleu style dish. And it’s not just a kid friendly yoghurt in a pot, it’s something you can use in many, many different ways should you choose to.

 

Jess Harris  

Yeah, I mean, it was so it’s so exciting to see someone do things like that without a negative thought of putting it with beetroot, but it worked. And I guess that’s also because our product is not overly sweet, and it’s not. So you can use it …. that was amazing to see. Really amazing to see.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So you’re in ASDA 

 

Jess Harris  

Yeah.

 

Andrew D Ive  

I guess the next step is to get into more retailers across the UK and further afield. Is that what’s next? Or are you moving geographically? Or are you actually more around the channel at the moment?

 

Jess Harris  

So yeah, we are looking at getting more listings. We’ve done a couple of pitches in the last month or two. So fingers crossed, we’ll have some news to announce soon on that front. Fingers crossed. And then we are also continuing to try and push in education because again I feel very passionate for children to feel included, they need to have choices wherever they go. 

 

Jess Harris  

Let’s be honest, primary school and nurseries, etc, is when they spend most of their time. So let’s make sure they’ve got good choices there that are healthy, and also fun. So also pushing on that. And so we again, might have an exciting announcement to make before before long, for a bigger contract there. We bought someone on board who’s got lots of experience within education and food service. 

 

Jess Harris  

So pushing on that one, I see education also as a real driver to try and grow our grocery listings, and grow the brand so that children are becoming aware of it at a young age. And you know, they’re having it in the nursery, and then they see it in the supermarket. That’s kind of logical flow for us and then direct consumer. So we have started a shop and it kind of paused because we were having some supply issues like a lot of people have had, and had to prioritize stock to Asda into the nurseries but we’re going to pick that back up. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

You just said the nurseries you told us. 

 

Jess Harris  

So I think there’s a real opportunity there also to go online and look at subscription models, we are still niche. But not everyone lives near an ASDA. So we’ve got a long shelf life on our product. So we should be servicing people and making it easy for people to get hold of these products. So we’ll continue to grow in those three channels. 

 

Jess Harris  

In 2022 we’ll be looking at introducing a fourth channel of family leisure. So again, where do children spend a lot of their time out of home? It’s, you know, in the amusement parks in the play parks. So looking at how we can break into those channels, and then export. We definitely want to export, we’re looking at some key markets in Europe, and possibly then in the Middle East as well. 

 

Jess Harris  

It’s hard, you want to be structured and you want to be focused, but you also want to be responsive to opportunities. So you know, we’ve had a lot of interest from Israel at the moment, and also quite a big multiple in Germany. So you kind of want to make sure that we’re also open to those opportunities, because if people are knocking on our door, we don’t want to be shutting the door. We want to be opening it and having those discussions and trying to get it to as many people as possible.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So I love the idea of nurseries and schools in particular because when a parent finds something they love, they just really grab a hold of it and it becomes part of their daily routine especially when it’s good for their kids and has less sugar and so on. So if you can get this into schools and nurseries, the parents will go harass the retailers to take this product. You know if they’re getting it everyday through the school or the nursery, and then they’re like, screw this, I want to go buy it at my local Waitrose, they’re going to go, give them a hard time and until they make the right decision.

 

Jess Harris  

That’s what we want. We want all those ambassadors out there, all those mums and dads knocking on buyers doors. Absolutely. So yeah, part of our strategy around online is building that community, and building those ambassadors. And we’ve started because we launched a big taste club to test our reformulation as we’re developing it, and we had over 400 people apply for 50 places, and these people hadn’t heard of us before. So we know there’s a demand there and it’s how do we engage those people so they feel part of the brand, and they can go out there and be our ambassadors and share what we do?

 

Andrew D Ive  

Absolutely. We’re actually having some interesting conversations with Disney and some others. Not Disney France, that’s probably a different group. So when you’re ready for the US or Asia, let’s talk about it. So we’ve talked about how you got started, and we’ve talked about the marketplace? I’ve got two questions here. So let’s see if we can remember both of them. One is geography. So at some point, do you see yourself stepping outside of the UK? Or really the next two or three years is much more about deepening your marketplace there? 

 

Jess Harris  

No, we definitely want to be looking outside the UK. I think I mentioned we’re looking at key areas in Europe. So we think in 2022/ 2023, we will be looking at France and Middle East as potential markets, and then kind of streaming it down from there. So we, as I said, we have someone on board who’s also expert in export. So he’s got lots of ideas about where to take us and which supermarkets might be interested in us overseas. 

 

Jess Harris  

And then longer term, the USA and Asia are obvious ones. The USA, I think would be a great market for us but it needs a bit more of a planned introduction into that market, I think and then Asia. We know that they’ve got issues with lactose and dairy and so again, another strong market for us. We did speak to an export, third party export company and they also said that Asia would be a good market for us. Their best selling brand that has ever been for kids, has been you know, as kitchen and they’re getting requests for more of that type of product. So we’d be daft not to be looking there.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Yeah, absolutely. You also mentioned and now I’m going to bring it back to that party with your son. There was a lunch box you described, and the only thing he could really eat was the apple, despite the fact that there was chips with some dairy content. There was a baby Bell, there was a cheese sandwich and there were chips that was what was in there right? And obviously, there was the birthday cake….

 

Jess Harris  

And a chocolate bar. I think there was a chocolate bar or something. Yeah.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Okay, so what’s next after yoghurt?

 

Jess Harris  

We have so many ideas but I think you’ve kind of hit the nail on the head there. So we are looking at kind of lunchbox swaps. So that kind of gives you a good idea about what sort of things we’d be trying to tackle.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Lunchbox swaps? forgive me. 

 

Jess Harris  

So just like you said, a lunchbox and all the things that go into a school lunch box for your kid. How we swap the dairy for an alternative, or something that contains dairy for an alternative that doesn’t compromise on nutrition that is properly offering functional health benefits for a child. And that we exist to make life easier for families. 

 

Jess Harris  

So there’s lots of fruit products out there and Crisps that kids can eat but that’s not necessarily making life easier for families. It’s about convenience, we want to be about offering convenient swaps. So things that parents rely on as the every day go to. How can we bring in those substitutes that don’t compromise on things. So you know, for example, you don’t want to give too much away, but you’ve been talking about what was in that lunch box like bars, cheese sandwich…..

 

Jess Harris  

Baby bells, those sort of things. So think along those lines, and that’s definitely where we’re heading. And then in the yoghurt we also are very aware that families eat together, right. So we know that a really popular format is a large family sharing pot. So we’d be looking at different formats for yogurts, so a little band is big pot. That’s about a family occasion that families enjoy.

 

Andrew D Ive  

I have the little ones but they also have the enormous ones don’t they?

 

Jess Harris  

Yeah, exactly. So looking at looking at different formats as well,

 

Andrew D Ive  

I was also just thinking we need different terminology, because you were saying substitutes like, you know, a kind of a poor replacement of. You also said earlier that it was in the less than category?

 

Jess Harris  

A free from 

 

Andrew D Ive  

Free from

 

Jess Harris  

Here it’s called the free from category. Yeah, the free from isle. Very nice category. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And yeah, always feel a bit second class, isn’t it? Yeah, I think you’re right, we need to rethink that.

 

Andrew D Ive  

More than, better than,

 

Jess Harris  

Better than Yeah, exactly. I like that.

 

Andrew D Ive  

All right. To 2020 to 2023, some more, maybe some geographic expansion. 2022, I would guess is focused on moving into other channels and also more grocery, so more doors outside of ASDA and products.

 

Jess Harris  

Yeah, we know that a key to unlocking a lot of listings is going to be innovation. So yeah, looking at some of those new product ideas that we’ve got, the next iteration of our yogurt that has high protein content and maybe, potentially a first to market and innovative base, as we spoke, or coconut out, I think those offers a really good opportunity to unlock more listings.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Are the buyers, typically, dairy buyers, so you end up, if you’ve got a relationship with a dairy buyer for yogurt, that person is also going to be the buyer for the cheese and the baby bells and all that sort of thing? Or are they completely separate?

 

Jess Harris  

It’s mostly separate from our experience for the big multiples anyway, apart from one where we did talk to the yogurt buyer, but the rest were in a chilled free from. So they now have chilled free from buyers and that’s where we would normally sit. And then also you’ve got your free from ambience, that’s another buyer again, as we move to different categories, potentially. Yes, the free from is still it’s own buyer.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So if you were to put new skews new products, you’d have to build a kind of a net new relationship with new buyers? Or is are you going to be sort of cognizant of what you’re doing. One of the things I did when I had my own company was I went to my buyer who I had a great relationship with and said, What do you need? Like, what other products are you actually whitespace looking for, for your particular category. And if I could provide a good version of it, you would stock it tomorrow. And he was like, oh, okay, I need one of these, one of these. And one of these, if you can find one, or if you can be one, or if you can create one, I’ll take it very, very seriously. So I was able to kind of go deep with with one buyer, as opposed to trying to build a new relationship from scratch with somebody completely different. It doesn’t always work that way. But, you know, one idea,

 

Jess Harris  

I know. And I think you’re right. And I think for some of our product ideas that will work with the absence of one or two of them, which would be a different vibe, because chilled is obviously very specific. And then you’ve got ambience, they are two different buyers. But most of our range if we think about the things we’ve just talked about, are still going to be within the chilled category. And so I think that still works for us. And yes, you want to be answering the problems that they have. So we are, you know, we are always talking about the ideas that we’ve got with our buyers, because we want them to understand we’re more than just yoghurt. You know, we want them to come on board for the long term with us. So yeah, I think that’s a really valid point.

 

Andrew D Ive  

And they get emotionally committed to the success of the new product as well. 

 

Jess Harris  

Yeah, because I think all buyers also want to be famous, right? They want to be the ones to discover the next big thing and that’s what you need to sell them that big vision.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So what have been some of the toughest things about getting started, starting a business ,growing a business, being a parent with a young child while doing all of those things? From your point of view, what have been the most noticeable one or two challenges that you’ve had to grapple with?

 

Jess Harris  

I think there’s one that’s from the business side, finding the right manufacturer, and I’m sure that’s probably what most people say in this business. But I think we had that added layer of complexity because we wanted to be in a factory that doesn’t handle dairy. So it’s not like just a plant based product that a lot of people will be able to compromise on where it’s made. For us. That was really important because you’re selling something, a great product but also reassurance to parents that don’t worry this way there won’t be cross contamination here. There is no risk to your child. 

 

Jess Harris  

And so that that was hard and basically I had to pull on a lot of networks. Because at the time I was finding one, we were also going through Brexit. So it was like, I didn’t want to risk going to Europe, because I had no idea what was gonna happen with Brexit. And the startups I had spoken to were getting really stung in that area. So for me, it was like, okay, it has to be UK can’t handle dairy at a minimum. But ideally, no soya as well and ideally, no nuts, because it’s for kids. 

 

Jess Harris  

And suddenly, you’re getting smaller and smaller, and then looking for ones that have the capacity and knowledge of creating yogurts, plant based yogurts but for kids, again, manufacturers who have the right equipment, suddenly, there were like, none, and it was going to be about investment in equipment. And then through our networks, we found someone who was really under the radar but has been doing it since the 1980s and could fit, you know, have the equipment to do it in small parts. 

 

Jess Harris  

It was like, brilliant, okay, and so that’s who we’re going with and the bonus of going with them as because of their experience and longevity of doing this. They knew how to get us a long shelf life as well, which has been amazing, because as a start up, that’s another big worry, your wastage. So they’ve been brilliant as we scale up, you know, there’s other challenges with that, because they are a small family run unit. So it’s how can we grow with them? How do we grow with them? Let’s find a backup as well, because you never want to be caught short if something happens, or you can’t know that you can no longer work with your manufacturer. So we’re constantly trying to think about the future when we scale up, what do we need? Can we get that with our manufacturer? Do we need to move to a new one. So the manufacturing was a challenge for us. 

 

Jess Harris  

And then I suppose the other challenge has been more personal about juggling the commitments because of my child, but I don’t want him to suffer because of the business and you want to be a present parent at the same time. So that’s not just for me, a lot of other startups will have that challenge. And I’ve got parents who are needing more support and to kind of getting pulled in lots of different directions. So that’s an ongoing challenge but as I say, one that I know I’m not alone in.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So you were pitching on a stage in Paris about three or four days ago, in a room of about 200 business people, investors, other entrepreneurs, and your son was on screen, how does he feel about being somewhat famous? Obviously, you haven’t used his likeness on the packaging, and so on, which I totally as a parent respect, but you know, he certainly is part of the story. 

 

Jess Harris  

And you know what is really interesting, because it was at the beginning, it was quite challenging, because he’s so young, he can’t give consent to a lot of this. So, you know, I try and have conversation, I knew I didn’t want his name on there but you know, on the bottom of our pack, we are on X explains the story. And that was a conversation I did have with him, albeit, he was young. 

 

Jess Harris  

When I went to Paris he didn’t want me to go away again. I had just been away to Switzerland and he was like, they shouldn’t make you do something you don’t want to do and I was like, No, I do want to do it. And then I had to explain why. And I was like talking about the experience. It was amazing experience and opportunity to hopefully find people who want to support what we’re doing. And to help other children like you. Then he said, Will you be talking about me? And I was like yes, I will. He said Well, I’d be even more famous. And I was like, Yes. OK, I’m fine with that. And he was fine. 

 

Jess Harris  

And so the moment you try and have those discussions, and I try to always be balanced with it. So yes, of course he’s the reason I’m doing what I’m doing. So he’s part of that journey and I get him involved. He’s been involved in helping me pack yoghurts up and writing messages and we’ve got a message from a father and his daughter and he you know, helped me write back to them. So he’s involved in it, you know, all the way on the way he knows why we’re doing this. And you know, if he says don’t take my photo one day, I don’t take his photo and it’s fine. And that’s my Instagram opportunity lost but that’s fine because you need to give him the autonomy to make those decisions when he can.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Absolutely. So it sounds like it’s been a really interesting experience for him and then an interesting experience for you. If you were able to get some help, obviously you did the pitching in front of all those investors and so on but if someone listening today is excited about Little Bandits, about kids friendly non allergen yogurt and other products. What’s the best way for them to engage with you and what kind of help are you looking for?

 

Jess Harris  

Well, first of all, please reach out to me. We love hearing from people and you can just get me at Jess@hungrylittlebandits.com

 

Andrew D Ive  

I’m sorry, slow this down just for a second. Jess@hungrylittlebandits.com  Okay, and on the new website too. Go find it to make sure they’re getting it right, is hungry little bandits.com. That’s right?

 

Jess Harris  

Yeah, so that’s how you can reach me and also via LinkedIn. But so where do we need help? You know, next year we will be early in quarter one of next year, we’ll be launching our seed round. So anyone who might be interested in chatting and finding out more, please do get in touch. But you know, what’s been wonderful about Big Ideas Ventures supporting us and investing in our business is that it’s felt like a partnership and that’s been wonderful. Having access to networks and support across all the right areas of the business. You can’t put a price on that. That’s amazing. And so of course, we’re always looking as well as investment, for anybody who wants to get involved in other aspects of the business and they think they’ve got skills and networks and experience that can help, we would love to hear from you.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Now, one of the things I’ve always been talking to you about and am just really excited about are your characters, your little your bandito characters. So if there’s anyone who goes along to hungry little bandits and sees the characters and if they have a skill set in, you know, video creation, animation, sketching, drawing, I’m sure that Jess would love to get drawings, sketches, prototypes, anything you can think of around little banditos details on the characters, because the more we can get those fellows out, fellows and felletes, I don’t know what the equivalent of fella is in female Multijet gender based characters out there, the better you know, the story will be for this product.

 

Jess Harris  

Absolutely. And you know, we have someone who’s very generous, who did a pro bono piece of animation when we launched and it’s amazing. And you know, yeah, anyone who can help on that aspects and bring them to life, we could be doing so much with those characters in the brand. Yeah, we would love support in that. Absolutely.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Maybe I don’t know if this is ever going to be listened to by more than like three people and my grandmother, which would be challenging because she’s dead. But if anyone’s listening, maybe we do this. If people do create some little animation pieces, some sketches and pictures, you know, you name it with the characters by the end of 2022. If Jess picks the best one, we’ll send them I don’t know, either $500. Or we’ll send them a gift pack of all its you know, as many big idea products as we can find. So Jesse’s saying, that’d be good. So end of 2022 you choose if you get more than like, seven? Yeah, if you get more than seven, you choose the best one. And we’ll send that person a gift of some kind.

 

Jess Harris  

Amazing, amazing, this is great. This is another great way to incentivize people, you know, send us around incentivize people to watch it say there’s an opportunity at the end.

 

Andrew D Ive  

All right, so people can get hold of you at Jess at hungry little bandits.com. I’m guessing you’re on LinkedIn as well. 

 

Jess Harris  

I am. Yeah. You can find the business page and look out and is there. And also myself.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Jessica Harris, yeah. Awesome. What else? What else do we need to say to people, you’re looking for? Graphic designers, sketches, video animation, buyers for amazing products in the UK. If people are interested in this product outside of the UK, perhaps in France, they should reach out as well, I guess. Right,

 

Jess Harris  

Please, definitely. Because as I say, we’ve got someone on board now who can you know, lead in that area and have those discussions? So yes, please.

 

Andrew D Ive  

And you said you were going to be opening up your funding round. Next year, sometime?

 

Jess Harris  

Quarter one of next year. So we also have, if you’re listening in the UK, we still have seis available for any UK angels who might be interested in that, that scheme. So that’s a really good opportunity. And so yes, we want to be going out before that runs out for us.

 

Andrew D Ive  

And that’s the UK but you would be interested in talking to smart investors outside of the UK. Right?

 

Jess Harris  

Absolutely everywhere. It’s just you know, an SEIS as a UK tax incentive scheme for investors. So it’s just it’s a really good opportunity for everyone in the UK, but we’ll be going bigger than that. Yeah, for sure.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Perfect. Do me a favor, show me those products one more time and show everybody else’s product for more time because the packaging was really something to be proud of. 

 

Jess Harris  

I understand that on shelf. So that’s the side that’s on shelf next to all the other ones and then on top. You can kind of see it tells you what your source is another thing that I think we won some awards for our branding but also from the free from FOOD AWARDS. So I don’t know if you can see a little bandit there. 

 

Jess Harris  

So a lot of brands will have this may contain and they slap on everything. And it doesn’t help the consumer ascertain risk at all, as an allergy parent, we want to just put a bit of a smile and say actually, this only contains mischief. You know, it’s kind of like trying to make people smile when they’re buying our products. You know, it’s anxiety inducing enough when your child’s got allergies, but let’s reassure them and let’s also provide a bit of humor while doing it.

 

Andrew D Ive  

I was in Starbucks once and I’d ordered a plant based drink of some kind, which typically is made with a plant based milkshake, or I don’t, I don’t remember what it was. And they were using a blender. And I noticed as they finished pouring my drink into it, they basically rinsed that blending container, and then they poured a big jug of milk into it. Like regular milk, like dairy milk, and like, Excuse me, you just put dairy milk in the same blender that you just poured my, like plant based. They were like, Yeah, well, we don’t we can’t make them. We can’t make them independent. Like, you know, we just use dairy non dairy in the same blending machine. So I’m like, okay, so I know now that whatever I’m getting in my drink has dairy as well as non dairy.

 

Jess Harris  

Yeah, yeah, it’s common. It’s common. I took Jonah for a hot chocolate today to make him feel better. And you check I asked does that come from the same frothers? And they’re like, no, no, it’s a separate one. So it’s like, fine, we can have it then. But you know we kind of get used to checking. But I think that’s the difference. So I think PLANT BASE has been really helpful but it also is challenging. So it doesn’t necessarily make it easier for an allergy parent, because you have to check that side of things, that contamination side of things.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Yeah. Well, now we have the perfect choice if they want to give their kids if they have any sort of allergies to dairy at all. But even if they don’t have any allergies to dairy, this product tastes amazing. So they should try it anyway. Because percent less sugar than regular, normal kids running around with their hands in the air with a sugar high. And then having a sugar crash. No, so All right. Yeah, I do. Okay, Jessica Harris, hungry little bandits.com. Thank you so much for your time today. If anyone needs to reach out to you that you’ve given them all the ways, and we encourage anyone to do that. I’m going to press pause. I thank you for your time today.

 

Jess Harris  

Thanks so much, Andrew. Take care.

 

Andrew D Ive  

All right. So I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Jess, and finding out more about hungry little bandits. Thanks for coming along. Again. This is Andrew D. Ive from Big Idea ventures. We focus on helping founders deliver great companies to the market. And our mission is solving the world’s greatest challenges by backing the world’s best entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers. So if you need to reach out to me, please do so via LinkedIn, or via big idea ventures.com. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

Like and subscribe and we’ll let you know when the next podcast is available or the next YouTube video is available. So thanks again. If it’s the time of year, when you’re listening to this, now, that which is strange, because it’s always now for you. But right now we are in the beginning of December. The holidays are coming and if you’re listening to this in December, Happy Holidays to you, and I hope you have a wonderful time with friends and family. Okay, thanks for coming along to the big idea podcast. Bye

 

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