Tax & admin · 8 September 2015

BOL Foods: The convenience food brand tapping into the health-conscious consumer

BOL Food offers a range of globally-inspired dishes  with a one week shelf life
BOL Food offers a range of globally-inspired dishes with a one week shelf life
Having spent 14 years at Innocent Drinks, Paul Brown decided to pursue his own aim in starting up a food business when the brand decided to take a step back from its healthy ready meal products. It seemed the opportune moment to take that idea further, and so marked the creation of BOL Foods. Brownmet Business Advice to discussgetting investment from the Innocent Drinks founders, capitalising on current consumption trends and the company’squick progress after setting up just a few months ago.

Brown was disappointed when the crop of ready meal offerings Innocent Drinks had been offering wasput on the back burner, and felt there was unfinished business? and a chance to pursue his own passion for food. Starting with his just his savings, Brown admitted his plight to bring globally inspired, healthy food? to the ready meal market, without looking towards other potential support networks or business incubators, was fairly risky.

On the up: BOL Foods from Business Advice on Vimeo.

I had always wanted to start my own business, and with the experience I had with Innocent, I felt if we created the right product with the right brand and believed in it, we should just go for it, he said. We’re only a few months in, so we’re definitely not out the new startup woods, but I think for us, there’s enough experience and belief and backing there, to just go for it.

This backing has also taken the form of investment frominnocent Drinks founders Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright, as well asnutritionist Ian Marber, who set-up The Food Doctor. We’ve got an investor pool that’salways on the end of the phone, and they’re pretty experienced business people, Brown said. The approach we took with fundraising was just to go to people we really respect in the industry and ask them for investment we didn’t have to do any institutional investment.

The personal approach has also meant BOL benefits from having these investors on hand as advisors should Brown need them. We don’t need them on a day-to-day basis, but it’s that feeling of having a big brother in the playground it’s comforting to know as a startup that we can just get on the phone to someone who can give us that advice, he explained.

BOL Foods founder Paul Brown
BOL Foods founder Paul Brown
Commercial finance director Ed Duguid also mentioned the value in being able to find a partner to help out on the day-to-day business matters. There’s only five of us in the core team and we work with lots of different businesses and consultants, and it’s important you get the best out of those relationships, he said. When that works, we can focus on the strategy and delivering the add value things.

BOL has been working with the KPMG Small Business Accounting team, and Duguid feels this has enabled the team to redistribute their time more effectively and productively. KPMG has taken a huge amount of the heat out of the operations of finances, so we’re left to try and focus on growing the business, he added.

This is already a key focus the business may only be a few months in, but it has delivered over 1m in retail sales, and is performing around five per cent above targets. For our full year aspirations, we would like to think we can deliver over 10m, Brown said.

BOL Foods’ products are already offered in Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Ocado, but Brown wants to reach a wider range of places. “There’s an opportunity outside of grocery within delicatessens, sandwich bars, travel places. We’ve already had interest from the continent [Europe] and as far away as Australia, ” he explained. The latter currently is a sticking point, as the range only has a seven day shelf life “we make them exactly as you would at home, so I guess we’re restricted in how far we can go” and may mean exporting further afar will be tricky.

Brown used to work for Innocent,  with the founders now investing in BOL Foods
Brown used to work for Innocent, with the founders now investing in BOL Foods



Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.