By Fay Cannings
“We are on a mission to make nutrition easy and make frozen cool” says Co-Founder Luke Johnstone one half of the PACK’D partnership with Alex Stewart, behind PACK’D smoothies. Luke, having attended two Startup Kitchen sessions this year and wowed the mentors with the PACK’D product talks to us about how he went from product development in his shed to a national brand in supermarkets – pioneering the world’s first frozen Smoothie Kits to provide a targeted health hit! http://www.packd.co.uk
So PACK’D Frozen Smoothie Kits were always going to take off – kits of perfectly portioned whole ingredients and superfoods, designed with nutritionists and ready to blend for a targeted health hit – Energy, Defence, Detox, what’s not to love? The re-usable packs contain two pouches of fruit/veg plus two superfood sachets – one per portion. It’s all simple – blend with your chosen liquid for the ultimate smoothie in under a minute. PACK’D sell to supermarket and food services and now in all major supermarkets across the UK including Sainsbury’s, Tesco Express, Wholefoods, Planet Organic and all Costco’s.
So PACK’D are definitely going places and we were proud to hear that The Startup Kitchen has been part of their acceleration over the last 12 months! Say Luke
“The Prince’s Trust and Virgin StartUp gave me the belief and skills needed to launch my business and StartUp Kitchen has felt like a graduation into the world of entrepreneurs. Every event, meeting and discussion has provided invaluable real world insight, developing skills and creating opportunities that bring PACK’D a step closer to creating a positive, lasting impact on the world.”
So how did Luke Johnstone and his business partner Alex Stewart get to become such a pioneering brand and achieve success in such a short space of time and indeed what was his inspiration? Luke explained to me that growing up he’d always been sports mad, with a scholarship at Sutton Tennis Academy and playing football in the FA Cup, nutrition was a key part of his life. Unfortunately, a severe injury ended his progress but his passion for nutrition remained. After graduating from university Luke did a stint at the BBC developing new ideas for wildlife and sports programmes (including Planet Earth 2) but it became clear quite quickly that he had to scratch the entrepreneurial itch.
“The more I worked, the more I gained relevant experience and the bigger my drive to launch a business became. With PACK’D, this became overwhelming and I knew it was time to go for it.”
Having always been fit and healthy the inspiration and passion was there but creating the ultimate product would take time. Especially without any funds or experience in FMCG! With no better way than to experiment Luke moved back to his family home and took up residence in the shed, living, researching. developing and launching his product for the next 2 years. This gives whole new meaning to living and breathing your business. Realising the gap in the market for high quality, natural and quick nutrition from scratch, the product development process began. The aim being to create frozen Smoothie Kits that put real, targeted nutrition at your fingertips.
“We wanted to create an antidote to bottled drinks and a shortcut to the ultimate homemade smoothie. This meant solving all of the issues with the existing options, innovating as much as possible and chasing perfection. It took nine months developing flavours, collaborating with nutritionists, scientific testing and pushing the industry status quo to pioneer new standards and create the perfect PACK’D Smoothie Kits.”
While coming up with the recipes it was crucial to also get out there and start testing the products so Luke and Alex worked 7 days a week, testing the products at markets on Saturday/Sunday, and developing the business during the week. The range was a big hit and started drawing regular customers to the trendy Chatsworth Road and Broadway Markets. Having the presence in these parts of Hackney also meant they were getting noticed and networking with their target audiences and retailers — health conscious young people looking for interesting new health products
“We will always be grateful to Chatsworth Road for giving us a 3-week rent free trial that was the springboard for our business and to Broadway Market for helping us to get direct feedback from hundreds of customers every single week”
With backing from The Prince’s Trust and Virgin StartUp they began to grow at speed and in April 2015 they secured investment from experienced entrepreneurs, including David Krantz (Racing Green, Planet Organic, Space NK) and Peter Lassman (Chrysalls PLC). Their first big break was when EAT 17 Spa (the shop opposite their market stall on Chatworth Road) took a chance to stock their Smoothie Kits. Six months later they were available in +600 stores, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco Express, Whole Foods and Planet Organic. They continue to go from strength to strength with big listings including Costco, AMT Coffee and many others on the horizon. Luke and Alex have now sold over 300,000 Smoothie Kits, in over +800 stores and the range was recently voted ‘Best New Health & Wellness Product 2016.’
There is a growing tide of competition as big business and supermarkets realize the opportunity that PACK’D have created but Luke and Alex have big plans for the future and exciting innovation just around the corner.
“We are on a mission to make nutrition easy and make frozen cool. We’ve partnered with elite nutritionist Matt Lovell and have big plans to break down barriers to healthy eating. Ultimately we want to fuel potential at every turn, by giving people the tools they need to reach their personal best.”
As a Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador Luke is determined to make PACK’D a huge success and to help other young people to follow their dreams. Watch this space for more PACK’D adventures!