The F&B entrepreneurs making 'huge savings' fast-tracking their UAE start-ups
Homegrown food and beverage brands can often spring from a labour of love, kitchen worktop experimentation and aspirations of feeding the masses beyond family and friends.
Demand may grow organically through social media or pop-up markets, but — at a potential cost of at least Dh100,000 — scaling to mainstream supermarkets can prove elusive for an emerging brand juggling the cash pressures of company licences and distribution, alongside domestic bills.
Laura Manning, from Wales, launched BRW Society in July 2019, selling speciality teas from a dedicated website, gifting sites, marketplaces such as Noon and some hospitality outlets. Then the coronavirus pandemic began.
“BRW Society started to explore retail channels, which were thriving during the pandemic,” Ms Manning, who lives at Arabian Ranches in Dubai, says.
“This change in strategy was difficult for the brand, still largely unknown in the local market … to get the attention of large UAE retailers, particularly as the tea category was seen as congested.”
Then, in mid-2020, supermarket chain Spinneys launched a Local Business Incubator programme to fast-track F&B start-up products into its stores.
The aim of the scheme is to help to “identify and support entrepreneurial ambitions” and develop innovative businesses within the country’s fast-moving consumer goods sector, Spinneys says.
Ms Manning registered by submitting a company presentation online, detailing customer need, her tea blends, business plan and “the person behind the business”.
Following a Dragon’s Den-style face-to-face presentation at Spinneys’ headquarters, her brand was accepted and, by October, was in 25 stores.
Ms Manning, 41, says she saved “a huge amount of money” by entering the market this way and was able to bootstrap the launch thanks to the “generous” contract Spinneys provided
“This included a guaranteed listing for 12 months, plus Spinneys did not charge account opening fees, product listing fees or other upfront fees that can be a barrier to entry … Spinneys also paid quickly to help with cash flow,” she says.
“Entering a major retail store transformed BRW Society. The first order was 20 times what the business turned over the previous year [and] turnover in year two increased by 455 per cent, providing additional revenue to invest in developing product range.”