Generations of parents have tried and failed, Jamie Oliver had to visit Downing Street in an attempt to make it happen, yet plucky start-up Paige Allen has succeeded in achieving the seemingly impossible: making healthy eating attractive to children.
Her business, FruityFaces, makes inflatable containers for fruit, which are fast becoming the coolest thing to be seen with in the playground. What’s more, every penny of the net profit Allen makes is given to charity.
It’s no surprise then, that FruityFaces was named the NatWest Startups winner of the Community Impact award in 2006.
Allen had no business experience prior to FruityFaces, and knew nothing about the industry. She’d simply had enough of fishing bashed, bruised and uneaten fruit from the bottom of her three children’s school bags.
She quit her charity job to create a solution, but was adamant she’d continue contributing to a good cause. “Using a socially responsible product to raise funds for children’s charities was the reason we started FruityFaces,” she says.
Creating the product took nine months. She and a design student friend created the designs for the ‘faces’, but finding the raw material for the product proved difficult.
“I don’t have a manufacturing background and didn’t know where to start,” she says. Undeterred, Allen eventually found a material which complied with EU standards and was, as she’d demanded, ethically sourced.
She then found a factory in China and ordered the manufacture of 20,000 ‘faces’.
In May 2006, Allen started making enquiries to stockists. She focused on direct sales through schools and devised an innovative revenue-sharing scheme where 30p of every product sold was kept by the school.
She also sold via wholesale, retail, charities, sports clubs, mail order catalogues, and licensing agreements. However, the biggest coup was striking a deal with ASDA, which will see the Fruity Faces on shelves in 22 stores from March 2007.
Allen feels timing was crucial and that she hit a market that was particularly responsive due to media pressures. “We came along at the right time, when healthy eating for kids was really being promoted.”
Since June 2006, FruityFaces has achieved £80,000 worth of sales but that is expected to significantly increase once the ASDA supply begins.
There are ambitious plans for expansion, too. Allen aims to quickly add to the four styles in the FruityFaces range and has plans to go global next year.
Of course, that’s good news for the three main beneficiaries that of FruityFaces profits, African Revival, which supports rural communities in East African countries; Fara, which helps abandoned Romanian children; and Amber, which helps long-term unemployed young people.