Home Baby brand Annabel Karmel MBE explains how her children’s food business thrived during an...

Annabel Karmel MBE explains how her children’s food business thrived during an eventful 18 months

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It’s safe to say that the past 18 months have been a whirlwind for the most part, and businesses are no exception. Like so many around the world, we’ve had to face unforeseen obstacles and regroup, rethink and rework to stay on track.

Covid-19 has come with its unique challenges for my children’s food brand – whether it’s our supply chain, changing shopping and cooking habits, or adapting to an expanding team. as we try to keep up with the continued growth of digital and sales.

Although I started out as a children’s cookery author, I have now branched out into award-winning retail child food lines and a number one recipe app, partnerships with top global brands and a strong online presence – I engage with 1.5 million parents every week.

Being so diverse is both a blessing and a curse and it certainly keeps my team and I very busy, but it also means we could be nimble with our business strategy in the face of Covid-19.

Personal motivation

We all have a driving goal and I believe it’s the “why” you do something that equips you and energizes you to face tough times.

My career grew out of the grief of suddenly losing my first child Natasha at just three months old. If it hadn’t been for this unimaginable loss and my next child, Nicholas, being such a picky eater, I would never have had the motivation, or perhaps the purpose, to pick up the quill and write my first book The complete meal planner for baby and toddler.

I wanted to create a legacy for Natasha to make sense of her short life. I think losing someone so precious had a profound effect on me and made me dedicate my life’s mission to supporting parents as they try to help their child develop good eating habits. for life.

Changing consumer behavior

One of the many ways the pandemic impacted our lives was the time people spent at home, cooking from scratch, and looking for recipe inspiration.

We have seen increased traffic to our website and increased sales with our new Healthy Baby & Toddler Recipe app.

With 25% of total grocery purchases now made online, we have recognized this change and have prioritized our focus on digital (including recruiting a new digital manager and a sales manager to drive this shift. agenda).

As a business, we live and breathe socially – we now reach 1.5 million parents per week through our channels and have 355,000 followers on Instagram.

I believe that success is due to the fact that we provide valuable and honest information, rather than promoting our products. It is so important for me to establish a real and meaningful relationship of trust with parents – after all, this is the very reason I started my business, as my legacy to Natasha.

Out of your comfort zone

You can’t grow a business if you stay in your comfort zone. It’s the people who can survive failure who ultimately succeed. Every great entrepreneur has failed several times.

I should know, with my first cookbook, I was turned down by 15 publishers before it was finally published by Random House.

I now realize that the opposite of success is not failure, rather the opposite of success is not trying.

If I had been too scared to try, I’m not sure I would have ever been able to move from my kitchen table to the world stage, publish 48 cookbooks (and it continues!), Develop food lines from award-winning retail in supermarkets, create bespoke menus at some of the world’s largest hotels and resorts, and benefit from an incredible number of digital subscribers, as well as a UK’s best-selling recipe app. United.

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Social media

Since my mission has always been to help parents feed their children, I think it’s so important to share information freely online and not just in my books – sharing is caring after all.

Not only do I want parents from all walks of life to have access to the recipes, but I also share expert advice, tips and more informative content.

Innovation

As a small brand, we can be nimble and innovate in ways that big brands with layers of bureaucracy can’t.

While private label supermarket brands work well for adult meals, when it comes to children’s food, established and trusted brands are the rule. This has allowed us to build the trust and loyalty of parents around the world and to stay on track. Businesses During the Pandemic It’s amazing to think of the waves of change we have been through as a business over the past 18 months.

When the pandemic started, people were stockpiling, which caused our sales of refrigerated and frozen meals to skyrocket.

While this was beneficial in many ways for the company, it was also difficult to plan for production. Our normal sales pace was disrupted, but we still had to forecast weeks in advance.

In March 2020, we were delighted to have launched an extension of our business – a nursery catering business.

Then, with the closing of nurseries across the country, we had to pivot. Instead of feeding the nurseries, we used our kitchens to prepare meals for hospitals and vulnerable people.

The camaraderie during this time was wonderful, with Uber drivers and professional chefs volunteering to help. In addition to changes in consumer behavior and working methods during the pandemic, we also happened to change one of our suppliers during this period.

This allowed us to transition to one of the leading frozen food manufacturers in the country. We have also chosen to switch to sustainable packaging.

Thanks to the work we have done on the development of the range and the introduction of our new sustainable packaging, our frozen food sales have increased by 25%.

During the pandemic, we also gained new retailer lists, increased our performance in existing retailers and become the solus children’s food brand for Waitrose, replacing our main competitor.

I also managed to write a new children’s cookbook, Fun, quick and easy, to encourage and teach children to eat and cook.

Looking forward

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of diversification within our business. We have been able to weather this turbulent period positively thanks to the variety of products and benefits that we offer to parents.

With that in mind, we’ve teamed up with UK leading children’s fashion designer Rachel Riley to create a beautiful and unique range of clothing.

We are also about to launch a brilliant new website to accommodate and better serve the huge number of unique visitors we now have on the site.

Our innovation doesn’t stop there, we are constantly preparing new recipes and products to ensure that we provide parents and children with the best food choices.

For example, this year we launched a fresh children’s meal with chicken katsu and organic yogurt (banana and strawberry flavor) in our baby food pouches.

We also just worked with Young’s to develop two new products to help kids eat more fish.

We have only been able to do all of this because we have been riding the pandemic wave and not trying to build a barrage of denial. I firmly believe that we must constantly adapt and evolve as life unfolds around us because we simply have no idea what to expect – and the past 18 months are proof of that.

Annabel’s top tips for growing your business

1. Always be authentic. I think the “why” you make your product is just as important as the product itself. It is this motivation that strengthens your customer proposition and provides another reason for customers to believe in you.

2. Follow your passion. Find out what you love, who you really are, and have the courage to do it. I believe that the only courage you need is the courage to pursue your dreams. You need this passion to give yourself the strength to fight the battles that you will inevitably face in business.

3. Get out of your comfort zone. You can’t be a real entrepreneur without taking risks. Failure is simply an opportunity to start over, this time smarter. I believe if you learn from losing then you haven’t really lost.

4. Believe in yourself. As a mother, you can lack self-confidence, especially if you haven’t worked for a few years due to having children. It’s so important to believe in yourself. In many ways, confidence is as important as competence. There are many skills you learn by having a family, such as multitasking or relationship skills. You can handle any adult if you master the art of dealing with an irrational toddler. Leave your mom’s guilt at the door and make your own rules!

5. Get outside. Look for the right business rewards for you and compile a strong application. These awards are invaluable not only for brand awareness, but also for its credibility. If someone chooses between your product and a competitor and yours has the price logo on it, that could tip the scales. It is also essential to promote your application once it is accepted. It might sound a bit presidential to ask people to vote for you, but more often than not your customers are more than happy to show their support!


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