Futureminded Founder Q&A: Phoebe Thirlwell-Pearce, FOGA
With all of the nutrition, flavour and the texture of a smoothie you would make in your blender, without the need for one, FOGA's nutrient-dense plantshakes are perfect for life-on-the-go and pack in two of your five a day.
We spoke to founder Phoebe Thirlwell-Pearce to learn about the discovery that planted the seed, how FOGA are making waves in a supposedly saturated marketplace, and ensuring a work-life balance.
Who? Phoebe Thirlwell-Pearce
Disruptor Brand: FOGA
What inspired you to create FOGA?
I worked in Big Food for years and became convinced that there was a convenience health tax - healthy, convenient foods were either crazy expensive or not quite what they seemed. I went through my own health journey as I struggled with IBS, and realised that the best thing I could do for my health was to eat a diversity of whole plants. It seems to be the only thing all nutritionists agree on, and yet, only one in four people in the UK are even getting their five a day.
FOGA was born when I came across freeze drying and we realised we could use it to preserve the flavour and nutrition of plants to create an instant smoothie that anyone could make anywhere. It's an instant smoothie, with all the nutrition of a fresh one.
What were the big lessons you learned in your first year as a business?
Take supplier lead times and double them. Always.
Trademark everything before launch. We had some early challenges around this.
Show how much you care. It can be tempting to try and ‘act big’ when you’re small, but you miss out on making true connections with your customers and creating superfans.
What are the brand values and promises you stand behind?
We believe that the more plants you eat, the better you feel. The FOGA name encapsulates our key values:
Fresh - We believe in the power of nutrient-dense, naturally ripened plants. Freeze dried can be fresher than supermarket fresh. We’ll never use synthetic additives, chemicals or sweeteners.
Organic - We commit to using organic plants wherever possible, we believe it’s the best farming practice for us and our planet.
Good - We believe business can be a force for good, with our products and the way we do business. We plant a tree for everyone who signs up to our emails, and we have a recycling scheme where customers post back their used sachets in a paid envelope while we search for better packaging options.
Accessible - Natural can be easy, and quick can be nutritious, so you can get on with living your best life.
How did you challenge the status quo and disrupt conventional wisdom?
We launched into a market that many will think is saturated. We saw something different; we saw a market that hadn’t changed for a decade (since innocent) and wasn’t giving people what they wanted. Busy, health conscious people are looking for juices and smoothies as a quick fix to getting their five a day. The options were either crazy expensive or more sugary juice than fibre. Personalisation is king, so we launched with 10 flavours, enabling customers to build their own selection (despite this being operationally challenging)! We now have 13, with many more in the pipeline. We make everything in-house and are building our first FOGA factory as we speak - this enables us to be innovative and quick to market.
How did you set your brand apart?
We want to build a brand that stands for more than one product, but the plantshake does stand apart. Colourful smoothie powders that fit through your letterbox, don’t need to be stored in the fridge and are as nutritious as the £7 juice you queued for! Our mission is to make plants fit into busy lives, and making healthy as fun as pick & mix, so our community can live their best life.
What’s next for FOGA?
We’re putting together our own production facility in the UK which is a huge project. We’re opening our first retail space later this year, and we’ve got loads more product innovation in the pipeline. We’re looking to work with a few select retailers to help get our product into more hands and spread the word!
Give us a quick insight into a day in your life?
I live and work in east London with my husband and co-founder, Ollie and our 6 month puppy, Tyrus. I’m usually up early for a run along the canal while Ollie walks Tyrus to work, we take it in turns so we can both get time to exercise. I’ll meet Ollie in the office before the team arrives for a coffee and plantshake to go through our projects. My day can vary from running around the city interviewing, pitching landlords to responding to customers, recipe testing a new flavour, and calling our suppliers. The days always fly by and we have to drag ourselves home after 7pm most days.
What’s your personal mantra?
No compromise. If it isn’t good enough, it isn’t good enough.
What’s your favourite self-care activity?
Walking. There’s nothing better for clearing my head than getting outside in nature, especially on a crisp autumn morning.
What’s your favourite book?
The best book I’ve read this year is Becoming by Michelle Obama.