ARTICLE / THE MAKING OF... SERIES
The making of...
With all the excitement of late around plant-based food globally, we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into something a little closer to home. For us here at Hunter, we’re interested in all things branding but more importantly how that brand delivers from a consumer point-of-view. Is the product nutritious? Is it healthy? And above all is it tasty? Will people come back and buy it again and again. Is there a meaning behind the facade? Enter co-founders Bianca Luscombe, a Type 1 diabetic since age six, and partner Farren Ray, who enjoyed a 13-year career in the AFL and their company Curiously Cauli. This is their story.
The making of... Series
So Bianca, can you tell us a little more about how you come up with the idea?
Having lived with Type 1 diabetes from an early age, I’ve always been interested in healthier alternatives to high-carb foods. Living with diabetes has taught me a lot about nutrition and the body, and Curiously Cauli was born from this experience.
I started following a vegan diet in my early 20’s and coming from an Italian family with a massive passion for cooking, I set about mastering various recipes and veganising traditional dishes using fresh, natural ingredients.
Whilst including generous amounts of fresh vegetables into my diet and experimenting with new recipes, I found one veggie that stood heads and shoulders above the rest - the humble cauliflower.
With a nutty, slightly sweet taste and wide range of textures, Cauliflower’s reputation has really grown over the past couple of years and it’s now considered a superfood.
Packed with nutrients and immune-boosting properties, it actually contains more vitamin C than an Orange. But what really inspired me was its versatility, there are so many things you can do with it. And that got us thinking, experimenting and making.
We didn’t know it had more vitamin C than an Orange. That’s insane. Can you let us know how you went about your research to arrive and what you've got now? How did you test your product-market fit?
In the early days, we were making our Cauli Crackers and Dips in a small commercial kitchen. We started selling them at farmer’s markets and the response was great! We soon outgrew our small kitchen, so we decided it was time to take the leap and scale things up.
A lot of our initial research was anecdotal. Using the opportunity of talking directly to our customers at the farmer’s markets, we always got instant, honest feedback. We also utilised Mintel to research FMCG markets to help keep us up-to-date with trends and changes within the vegan categories.
Bianca Luscombe and Farren Ray, founders of Curiously Cauli
With some startups we find they jump straight in without very little consumer or industry research. So glad to hear you took more of a traditional approach to developing your idea to determine product-market fit. What about testing? Which product came first and what were the first batches like?
First out of the kitchen was our Cauli Dips. It was the first time we had done a full-scale, large production run (we only did smaller testing prior), so we were really pleased with how four of the five dips came out. However, our Basil dip was way too strong and salty. Once we corrected the measurement calculations, the next batch was perfect.
In addition to that minor headache, we were sent the wrong sized dip tubs, which were too small for our packaging sleeves. Ultimately though, we had to make it work.
There’s a saying that I think relates to many startups:
“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”. Reid Hoffman, Co Founder of Linkedin
Awesome. You’ve got to love a Reid Hoffman quote thrown in for measure… and how so pertinent it is too for your startup journey. Now that you sorted your product and adapted to tub sizes, how did you go about funding?
Farren and I have funded the whole journey so far. [For those of you who follow our blogs… this is known as bootstrapping and very common when first starting your business].
Now we get to the fun part. Can you tell us a little about your branding process and how you arrived at where you are today?
As Curious Cauli is in the highly competitive FMCG category, we needed to get the right branding for our packaging to have a serious shelf presence. The friendly, abstract ‘cauliflower’ design is what symbolises our brand personality.
We know all too well about how competitive the FMCG category can be for new brands… so once on the shelf how did you go about building your brand awareness?
We first got the word out there by using our collective strengths; I’ve led the creative side and recipe development, with a focus on producing a quality product that tastes great. Whilst Farren’s strengths have been getting the product into stores and consumers’ hands. Together, we have both been raising awareness as Curiously Cauli’s fan-base evolves organically.
As a startup you’ve told us about some of your challenges so far… however, what do you think are the biggest challenges you'll face moving forward?
There’s a few. Adapting to the challenges in today’s environment such as the pandemic and also climate change, keeping up with demand, and managing cash flow. All while spreading the love of cauliflower.