Finding a manufacturer to make your product when you’re a startup

Helen Yates created Rootles biscuits using ‘deliciously unconventional’ ingredients and the company is going from strength to strength. As she told us on a recent podcast, it all started when a student presented her with a new concept…

The producer’s journey

Helen’s background was in the transport industry but she joined her husband in running the Luke Evans bakery ten years ago. “I’m not a baker, I’m more a general manager,” Helen explains. “I always had in my mind that I wanted to start my own business and I have a passion for food. Luke Evans bakery is a great business but it’s an indulgent business… I quite like the health side of things.”

Helen collaborated with Nottingham University, offering placements to master’s students. During one of these placements a student brought Helen a homemade biscuit to try. Tasting just like a digestive, Helen was surprised to discover it contained root vegetables and was struck with an idea. “I said: We’re going to test the concept of vegetable biscuits to see if it can work in the market” and they switched focus and that was the start of Rootles.

Packed full of veggie goodness

The first recipe which contained margarine and palm oil also involved grating thousands of carrots. They soon decided they needed a more commercial approach so Helen reached out to Froghop for support.

Finding a manufacturer to make your product when you're a startup - with Helen YatesRootles are a high fibre snack bar with a twist in that they contain 35% root vegetables (carrots and sweet potato) without compromising on taste or texture – which is light and crispy and coated with either dark or milk chocolate. Cakes containing vegetables have been around for a long time but biscuits are certainly more unusual and this formed an intriguing USP.

Finding a manufacturer to make your product

Helen knew they could adapt and bake the biscuits at Luke Evans but adding chocolate was a more complicated process. They needed a dedicated biscuit line, so they decided to subcontract the whole process as they found they couldn’t make the product for the right price in-house.

“Finding that initial manufacturer was really hard work. I think that’s one of the hardest things for a start-up: to find a manufacturer when you have no history of sales to take your product on,” Helen admits. Covid added an additional challenge as building the relationship with the manufacturer had to happen over WhatsApp and email.

To find out more about how Helen has tackled development of Rootles – from product testing, food shows and pitching, to targeting retailers, creating the brand and building their sales model. Listen to the podcast.