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Primal Pantry: the small brand taking on big confectionery

Primal Pantry: the small brand taking on big confectionery

by Ollie Lloyd 04 July 2018

With our appetite for healthier options when snacking showing no signs of slowing down, Ollie Lloyd talks to Suzie Walker, founder of The Primal Pantry, to find out how she sets herself apart in an increasingly saturated market.

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‘Snacking’ is a dirty word in Britain; more for the food involved than anything else. Per head, Brits spend more on chocolate than any other country. On last count, twenty percent of us will eat an entire packet of biscuits in one session. And at the time of writing, the media is in meltdown, as a supposed ‘crisp crisis’ is set to hit Britain due to recent heatwaves wreaking havoc with potato crops.

Contrary to news hype, it’s looking less likely we’d mourn the loss of the crisp, as more than half of all adults in the UK now opt for more beneficial alternatives to crisps, chocolate, and breakfast bars. ‘People are moving away from traditional confectionery, whether it’s crisps or sweets,’ says Suzie Walker, founder of The Primal Pantry. ‘The manufacturers are panicking – gone are the days when you could just launch another purple Cadbury’s bar.’

Some brands, like Suzie’s, are changing the stigma associated with snacking. Suzie started out in the food industry fifteen years ago selling Kit Kats and Polos out the back of her Vauxhall Vectra for Nestlé. Now, she’s still slinging snacks, but of a very different kind. It began five years ago – armed with a blender and some nuts, Suzie was seized by a little inspiration. With some trialling, and a production kitchen willing to accept her no-compromise approach, her snack and protein bar brand was born.

Hear more about The Primal Pantry on the FoodTalk podcast

Ollie Lloyd talked to The Primal Pantry's founder Suzie Walker on the FoodTalk podcast. To listen visit foodtalk.co.uk or download the podcast on iTunes or Podbean.

It came at the right time. A time when, as Suzie witnessed herself, ‘there was a sheer lack of food products that actually offered people something made from wholefood ingredients.’ But it seemed that she wasn’t the only one noticing the words on the back of most food packaging as a little hard to pronounce. ‘When we launched in 2014,’ says Suzie, ‘in the supermarkets it was pretty much Nakd, Eat Natural and Nine. And then last year, everyone piled in.’

So how does a relatively small company manage in such a crowded market? A sense of honesty – which isn’t necessarily present when others enter the corporate fray ­– goes a long way. ‘We’re not competing,’ says Suzie. ‘Just on a mission to make sure people get a better choice. We don’t hide from the fact that, with these ingredients, it’s a simple thing to make yourself.’

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Suzie Walker founded The Primal Pantry after creating the recipes armed with some nuts and a blender
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It's now grown into a national brand with a variety of flavours on offer

The idea is that these ingredients, as has been the case since day one, shouldn’t stray too far from what’s most commonly found in your kitchen cupboard. Think combinations of almond and cashew, apple and pecan, and hazelnut and cocoa, each finely chopped, then ‘cold-pressed’ into shape. It’s a bit of a stretch from most of the bigger brands, so it begs the question ­– how can they be considered to be putting out a snack in the same category as flapjacks made with refined sugar, or granola bars with questionably sourced chocolate?

Whether the case or not, according to Suzie it’s all beginning to roll into one anyway. ‘Kellogg’s have just acquired a similar product in the US because it’s allowed them to enter the space,’ she says. ‘To bring something new to the market that the consumer trusts the integrity of – they [the big brands] otherwise can’t do it.’

Innovation has always been a struggle for large brands, in the food sphere or otherwise. But growth naturally happens to a successful enterprise provided they’re willing to take it on, and provided they’re willing to potentially compromise on quality and ethics. Many fans of craft beer were, for instance, more than a little concerned when Beavertown sold a part of itself to Heineken recently.

For a quickly growing brand, it could happen for Primal Pantry. Shouldn’t that be a worry? ‘Because we have bars with three or four ingredients in, as we scale up we can keep it simple and not move away from the heart of what we’re trying to create,’ says Suzie.

What Primal Pantry are trying to create is a belief that ‘eating healthily’ and ‘eating well’ can be the same thing. Government dietary recommendations of daily calorie counts or salt intake may appear useful, but what good is such advice when a product contains high fructose corn syrup, palm oil, or preservatives – the wider effects of which we know relatively little?

We can blame it on the decreasing time Britain has for the kitchen (‘Breakfast is very much on the go now,’ Suzie says), the efficacy of marketing, or our national sweet tooth, but snacks are a part of the British DNA. Might as well make sure they’re good for us too.

FoodTalk

The FoodTalk Radio Show celebrates the entrepreneurs and artisans working to make the UK's thriving food scene one of the best in the world. Catch a new show every Thursday and find out more by visiting the website.

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