We chat to Mark Salter, CEO of baby food brand for aisha who has 20 years of experience bringing leading food and drink brands to key UK retailers. He tells us about putting everything on the line to bring the halal baby food to the market.
What exactly is your business and how does it help people?
We’re a leading British owned brand of baby food www.foraisha.com that focuses on international cuisine recipes and introduces numerous spices and herbs for little ones. for aisha is available in 2000 stores in the UK and 15 countries worldwide
We learnt that parents often feel guilty about buying prepared baby foods but they are necessary for convenience. Parents told us that if they do buy packaged food for their little ones, they want recipes that are difficult, complex, time consuming or too expensive to make easily themselves. So we created a brand and recipes that offer a wide variety of tastes for their little ones. Our products are also halal so we serve the 10% of infant population who couldn’t previously eat baby food and so had to be weaned on high lactose only diets.
We’ve been shortlisted for 8 awards in our first year. We get lovely letters from parents. We’ve just launched our new range of Stage3 baby foods. Also Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital have asked us to supply them!
What was your inspiration and motivation to get started in business?
I was interviewing for a job vacancy with Plum Baby Food when I noticed that there was a lack of differentiation in the baby food category with a lot of recipe duplication (most brand doing the same thing). I researched the category and interviewed parents who wanted exotic recipes such as; curries, tagines, jerk, pulses, herbs, spices and other such healthy. I realised there was a market opportunity and put everything into making this brand a reality including selling my house and car. Tho’ my fitness levels increased as I used my trusty cycle
How did your friends and family react to you starting a business?
They are constantly surprised that a man can have built a baby food company. I don’t look like a person who knows about recipes and infant nutrition but I’ve had little ones of my own (they’re grown up now) and looks can be deceiving! I’ve always been a passionate foodie and a very amateur cook!
What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
There have been plenty of challenges too. Our first manufacturer had financial problems and closed down which almost put us out of business and lost us a major supermarket chain. We had to secure new investment but we did it. There are always challenges. The one now is the falling pound. Hopefully after another year life after Brexit will stabilise.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
Be roust and tenacious. There are so many knocks & hurdles but you have to keep finding solutions and bounce back again. I always tell myself that if it was easy everyone would be doing it.
How do you expect your business to develop in the future?
Well just today I’ve learnt that we’ve won our first major customer in France! So European market is open to our brand and we hope to flourish there. It’s not only good for our brand but it’s also very important for the UK balance of trade that British SME’s can continue to flourish at this uncertain economic time in Britain’s history.