Real business story

It's The Small Things podcast: Julianne Ponan, owner and CEO, Creative Nature

Creative Nature is committed to producing delicious superfoods that are free from the top 14 allergens. The ethos has resonated with customers, transforming a once struggling business into a retail success.

Our eighth episode of It’s The Small Things looks at free-from food producer, Creative Nature. From humble beginnings, the company is now stocked in retail giants such as Sainsbury's, Tesco and Ocado, with a turnover set to hit £2m.

Creative Nature manufactures snack bars, superfoods and baking mixes that are free from the top 14 allergens. Owner and CEO Julianne Ponan was driven to create free-from products because she suffers from anaphylaxis and was frustrated over the lack of options on the market.

When Julianne bought the company in 2012 as part of a management buyout, it sold candles, incense and oils – and had debts of £56,000. Over the following 18 months, Julianne transformed the company into a superfood brand and gradually brought it back into profit.

Listen and watch to find out how a packaging redesign boosted sales, how to pitch your product to major retailers and why customer feedback is essential to product development.

The full podcast episode is available on all major platforms and immediately below. Click through to find it on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Acast, Spotify and SoundCloud and subscribe to make sure you don't miss out on new episodes. We've also got some behind the scenes action to set the scene and showcase why Creative Nature is such an exciting business to learn from.

Access the full Creative Nature podcast transcript

Go behind the scenes

“On the old kind of packaging, we would list every single USP out in a very similar way. So we've got allergen friendly, gluten free, dairy free, wheat free. But we've kind of summarised that into just one single stamp, which is ‘delicious without doubt, top 14 allergen free’, which is our catchphrase for the brand.”

Julianne Ponan – Creative Nature

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Making changes

“If it’s a very large decision that I’m making, for example moving factory or getting premises, it’s something that I would probably take to a higher level. I’d sit with the board and get them to understand why I would want to make this decision and also just talk to them as a sounding board.”

Julianne Ponan – Creative Nature

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Hear what a typical day is like for Julianne

“I start the morning always trying to do some exercise. Then I have a team meeting, which is really important because we have people across the country as part of our team. So we have a morning team stand-up on what’s going on for the day and what happened yesterday – were there any issues? How can we solve them?”

Julianne Ponan – Creative Nature

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Case Study.

Read more about the Creative Nature improvement journey

Lessons learnt

Rather than bombarding buyers with how good your business is, tell them what customers you will bring to their store and why they should choose your product over a competitor.

Whether it's in focus groups, trade shows or other events, be sure to ask customers and people in your target market what they think of your product and packaging.

Don’t try and tell the customer everything about your product. Focus on the USP, as customers will typically only give a product three seconds.