Q&A: Very good snacks for the whole family

Sally Breden is a mum of three who spent 20 years working in product development and marketing for large Australian health and wellness brands. Determined to meet the needs of allergy sufferers across the country and provide parents with tasty school lunchbox safe alternatives, Sally has started her own business, VGood, and last month secured distribution for the brand in Ritchies and Drakes IGA stores.

ISB: What inspired you to consider developing spreads without nuts or allergy-triggering ingredients?

SB: As a working mum with young children, I experienced first-hand the demand for time saving, no-fuss lunchbox solutions, and the lack of good tasting, healthy and affordable sandwich spread options that are suitable for nut-free school environments. I saw what a huge opportunity there is to offer not just allergy-suffering families, but all families, with something that provides parents with healthy options that also capture the imagination (and taste preferences) of their children. My goal with VGood is to make healthy options accessible to more people, regardless of their dietary needs or choices, or their family budget.

ISB: How do you make sure that the taste remains as good without those ingredients?

SB: We partnered with an amazing R&D facility to better understand the science behind recipe development, ingredients and flavours. Chickpeas have a naturally nutty flavour when roasted so they were an excellent starting point for a nut-free peanut butter alternative. We started with many, many kitchen-sized batches, engaging family, friends and neighbours to test different flavour profiles, optimising the balance of sweet and salt, and the most favourable “peanut” flavour.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting VGood off the ground, and how did you overcome it?

SB: Scaling from kitchen-sized batches to commercial large-scale production was a huge challenge. We experienced some massive failures that delayed our launch, but these resulted in some of our most important lessons around cooking our recipe.  Finding solutions always requires a team of people and we now have a fantastic team who understands intimately how the recipe is “put together”.

ISB: And, conversely, how has your experience in product development and marketing for health and wellness brands helped you with this business?

SB: There are many people with great ideas out there, but executing the ideas can be the hardest part. I’ve worked on quite a few product launches in the health products space so I understand what it is you need to do to get started and most importantly, what people and experience to engage with to make things happen. Project management and managing a timeline and a budget are critical skills to launch a product, but most importantly I’ve learnt that success is going to come with passion, commitment, determination and willingness to make mistakes and get your hands dirty.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of the business in the next couple of years?

SB: The priority for now is to focus on the massive job we have in building our brand and showing consumers what we are all about so they feel confident about buying our products. At the moment, we are focussed on the Australian and New Zealand markets and building the distribution of our three spreads and the Twist snack range as broadly as possible across grocery, health and speciality food stores so VGood is accessible to more people.

New markets are a huge opportunity and that is a focus for the medium term, we have interest from a large USA retailer and a few European retailers. On top of that, the VGood team has a long list of new product ideas and I’m busting to get these up and running!

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your journey you’d share with others looking to start their own business?

SB: Be prepared to make lots and lots of decisions, and accept that some of them may be the wrong ones that you have to take in your stride and learn from. If you don’t make the decisions yourself, then who will? The business won’t move forward.