Former musician and brand consultant Dan Brown was so fed up with the lack of healthy frozen treats for kids, he launched his own
Making healthy frozen treats might not sound very rock ‘n’ roll. But for Dan Brown it’s more rock ‘n’ roll than, well, rock ‘n’ roll.
Six years ago, he left LA where he’d been trying to make a go of his band, Fiction Plane, and returned to London to get married. The band is still going (he was replaced by Joe Sumner, Sting’s son), but Brown has no regrets because four years in LA had opened his mind to healthy food - and when his son waas born, sowed the seed for It’s Only Natural. “I guess I fall into the camp of dads nowadays who are really proactive when it comes to their kids and I wanted to give him the best start I possibly could.”
Not easy when it came to healthy treats. Then came the dreaded moment when a carrot stick wasn’t going to cut it. “I was on a day out with my boy and there was an ice cream van with a queue of kids and he said: ‘Daddy, can I have one?’ and my heart sank. I don’t want to be that boring parent who has to say no, but if there was just something a little bit healthy…”
Conveniently, aside from his stint in LA, he’d spent much of the previous 10 years working as a brand consultant to the likes of InBev and Unilever, and the ice cream incident provided just the kick he needed to go it alone. “I wanted to get my hands on something from start to finish and I knew it would be in food - when I was a kid I wanted to be a biscuit designer!”
After six months developing the frozen smoothies, he headed with his new squeeze up tube to the Speciality & Fine Food Fair at Olympia. It was a good move. He secured a listing with Whole Foods Market and a distributor, Stratford Fine Foods and in 2010, Fruit Freezies hit the market. They are now available in independent delis, cafés, selected Londis and Budgens and various attractions and the rsp has come down from £1.20 to 99p - “I didn’t want this to be an exclusive middle-class niche product,” says Brown.
They have also been joined by an all-ages lolly range called 1/5 (because it contains one of the five-a-day). The 65p rsp has made it potentially attractive to supermarkets, but none have yet bitten. “It’s a real challenge in that category to get into a supermarket,” he shrugs. “We don’t have big budgets to fight with, even though buyers said this is perfect for our customers.”
They could well be more amenable to Moshi Monsters, a range of 100% fruit lollies that launch at the National Convenience Show this month (see fmcg news, p29) - and which Brown got the idea for from his son and “chief taster”. Targeting convenience initially, the company has just signed up Ice Cream World to distribute the new range, but it plans to roll out a take-home pack later in the year with a view to supermarket listings.
Brown, who uses two manufacturers, had already taken “a leap with distribution” by getting 3663 and Suma Wholefoods on board and predicts a 10-fold increase in turnover for the company this year. He has also had interest from a major US chain and would like to take the brand there at some point, but for now remains focused on the UK. “My vision for It’s Only Natural is to grow a nice diverse range of products.”
And for all the irony of It’s Only Natural also being the title of a very unrock Crowded House song, what could be more rock ‘n’ roll than that?