Noel Bollman and Ben Kremer, CEOs of yfood.
The Hollywood London Magazine is hooked – yfood is full of flavours, extremely tasty and exceptionally good quality.
Dr Fykaa Caan chats with Noel Bollman about yfood.
A study from market leaders of nutritionally complete food, yfood, found that 40 percent of Brits rely only on unhealthy junk foods whilst out and about. Just because you’re on-the-go doesn’t mean you have to compromise a healthy diet, as there are a plethora of healthy snack options that are perfect for a long trip.
Now available in Holland & Barrett, yfood is one of the fastest-growing food-tech start-ups in Europe, reaching a spectacular run rate of €100 million in less than 5 years. Establishing itself as the market leader in the Smart Food category in Germany, yfood is quickly emerging in the UK market. Since the launch of yfood Labs GmbH in Munich in 2017, Ben Kremer and Noel Bollmann have been revolutionising the food industry with their products. Innovative “complete food” in the form of drinks, bars, powders, and hot bowls represents a new way of eating that perfectly fits today’s modern lifestyle. All yfood products are balanced, fully mobile (drink) meals and thus combine fast-paced nutrition with a conscious diet.
Below, food-tech innovators yfood have outlined their top tips for staying fuelled whilst commuting:
If feeling lethargic between commutes and don’t want to be tempted by suboptimal snacking, protein-rich drinks such as shakes or supplements provide individuals with a multi-nutrient alternative to a bag of crisps. Packed with all essential macronutrients, high protein drinks are excellent for an on-the-go energy boost and do not compromise your health. Commonly misinterpreted to be solely for the use of gym-goers, protein drinks are now widely being used amongst the general public to stay fuelled for longer.
Nutritionally complete foods/drinks
Nutritionally complete foods are on the rise. With rapidly growing companies such as yfood tripling their revenue in the past two years – the ‘smart food’ solution helps to fill the nutritional gaps in everyday life, with the primary focus of helping sustain a balanced diet in situations where a wholesome diet is not always possible. The food-tech innovators supply your body with 26 of your key essential nutrients in one drink, providing a practical meal alternative to those on the go.
A tasty and healthy nutritional option to keep in your bag whilst on the go is a banana. Since they are low in water content but have rich quantities of sucrose, fructose and glucose alongside your essential fibre needs bananas are excellent for providing you with an instant yet sustained source of energy. Not only this, but they are rich in potassium which helps slow the digestion of the sugar, meaning consistent bursts of energy throughout your jam-packed day.
We’ve all heard it before but nuts are essential in contributing to brain health – packed with concentrated amounts of healthy fat, protein, and fibre sustaining your mental focus for longer. Further to this, they also keep your stomach feeling fuller for longer which means less snacking in between meals. Given the finding from yfood’ research that 37% of Britons snack the most between lunch and dinner – nuts might be the best, healthy solution to carry with you!
Exclusive Interview with Noel Bollman -The Founder and CEO of yfood with The Hollywood London’s Dr Fykaa Caan.
Could you please explain a little bit about the background and how your journey began?
Co-founder Ben @ Noel himself both have a background in business and economics and don’t come from the food industry. However, despite this, they were always super passionate about everything that was going on regarding food and the science behind it. We were both really interested in nutrition said Noel and we always felt like there was a compromise between good nutrition and convenience, especially in busy times – when we were studying and when we started our first jobs. We felt there were unnecessary compromises when it came to food choices and questioned in a world where we are trying to go to mass how can in such an important industry, there be so little innovation. So, we ventured out and looked for a solution ourselves and we came up with the idea of yfood as a smart food solution. A solution that offers a complete meal in a healthy, tasty, convenient and sustainable way. We founded the company in 2017 and since then it’s been amazing and quite a rollercoaster.
How was it in the beginning stages when you were both building the brand?
The best thing is to think that you’re trying to solve your own problem and that other people are facing the same problem. In and amongst going to university etc… we realised that we need to solve this problem for ourselves as well as for other people who were experiencing the same issues. In the beginning, we tried to make a product that best would fit our needs and realised a lot more about the market and that it was much more than a niche problem for young professionals. When we came to the market, we actually saw those products and that people were wanting to eat healthily but there weren’t options that allowed them to do so. These individuals had to compromise so it started off as our own problem and along the way, we discovered that quite a lot of people had the same problem and experiences too.
Where did the name come from?
There are actually quite a lot of rumours about this!
It was actually because of different things – back then we thought yfood for the generation Y for the new generation, a new generation that’s questioning things and saying “why food?” however, it’s not about replacing food but wanting good food ourselves. It’s challenging food and what good food should taste like… challenging the old habits. Showing what good nutrition can look like and offering food for a new generation and why food when you can drink it as well at certain times.
How did you decide on the taste and what would be in it?
A really important thing to note is that the product is the core focus of what we are doing. We see ourselves as continuously reinventing ourselves. Some of the big food companies are doing a lot of market research and product research and putting a product on the market and then it stays on the shelf for 20 to 30 years until it’s going to get replaced at some point. What we wanted is to put products out there and then step-by-step improve them and make them better. We started with one flavour which was called the original vanilla flavour and from this as a software development together with our online model and customer feedback helped. With this, we since on many multiple times reiterated wanting feedback of what our customers would like and what they didn’t. From this information we changed the formulation and changed the taste profile to also step-by-step adding new flavours. Without a doubt the backbone of all of our innovation is our customers. Having direct contact to our end customer really gives us the opportunity to innovate together with them because they are giving us so much valuable feedback and telling us where there are weaknesses in the product and how they want it to change and if and how they want to add more variety. This information and the recommendations are very useful and we like listening to our customers. We are very happy to now have a 20 people product innovation team which is growing and is every day trying to re-innovate and make the product better.
How did Holland and Barrett happen?
The thing about our company is that we are a product for the mainstream customer so when it comes to our brand perception and when it comes to our product and distribution, we always keep the mainstream customer in mind. For us, distribution is all about being available wherever the need for our product arises or where our end customer is. It started off as trying out the product and making it better and then we decided that because it spread phenomenally and because of the demand we decided to go into actual retail. This was where a lot of the mainstream customers were and this is where we could target them. We started off in Germany in our home market online then built a follower base then we fast discovered that our product would work well in the retail space. Our partners are happy with the product and how it is nutritional and perceived in stores. We then quickly replicated the model and then applied it to the international markets. Holland and Barrett gave us a chance to prove ourselves and are very happy and we are grateful.
For someone starting at the beginning and who is very new to product development, what advice would you give to them?
I think the first thing would be to not be afraid to talk about it and they should just go to the market as fast as possible. A lot of times people and companies choose not to talk about their product and hold back the idea and not talk about it to the public because they are afraid of it being copied. But to be honest, this is a risk because it will happen at some point. However, in this initial phase the feedback you’re getting is invaluable because you get to feel how consumers react to the concept and the context helps pivot the direction. Talking to a lot of people also helps and going in to the market as fast as possible is really important. I understand that you feel that it’s your baby and you want it to be perfect, you perhaps feel that once you introduce it and when it’s out there everyone will be looking at you but in actual fact, nobody cares in the beginning- but the most important part is that you are getting customer awareness and feedback. Being in the market with an imperfect product gives you the chance to move faster than being in your own room alone with just you. Getting no customer contact as fast as possible produces the risk of going too long in the wrong direction. The initial stages of taking on board feedback on our journey helped us because the products that we launched were a good NPD but because of what we did they weren’t the product that we started off with right at the beginning.
What do you think is the differential edge that you hold?
Firstly, we don’t see our competition as direct competitors, we see it as we are all together educating and growing the market. We are happy with the players helping us with our mission of bringing the smart food category to the mainstream and educating people about it. Fast food companies are our competitors because of changing a food and diet culture. We are trying to be a brand that is inclusive of everyone and really want to be wherever the customer is whether they be in the supermarket, online or on Amazon; wherever the customer is we want to be available.
We have a very large product development team because we believe that the product is at the core of everything that you are doing and we are putting an extraordinary focus on the taste of the product. Our sheer focus, ultra-convenience, and taste really differentiates us as well, and that’s what we want to focus on- making products that the mainstream customer enjoys a lot.
How has this changed you? From where you were, to here and the future?
We are on an incredible journey at the moment and we are very grateful for what we have experienced at such a young age. At 29 now from when it started, yfoods has been a rollercoaster and an incredible learning experience, especially for me as a founder in a very fast-moving environment. It’s amazing how fast you learn in this growing market.
In the very beginning, we started off like the Truman Show and it was all about doing it all yourself and just figuring out stuff. Then we got our first employees and we started to work together in shaping the team, to then shipping departments, to getting more experienced people in than ourselves, and now are building international structures in a matrix organisation, which is in a super exciting time of change. I think in those five years there is no way we could have, learned from anywhere else as much as we learned about how the company works, how a department works, and how you develop yourself personally. To some degree, you are finding parallels and you realise that you are not only shaping a new yfood but also shaping you yourself because you are growing as a person and hence you are taking the same journey as the company. It’s been an incredible journey and we’ve learned so much in this time and we are so grateful that it happened at a young age. We get the confidence from our investors to do so many new things which is exciting.
What’s in store for the brand in the future?
Our goal is twofold. First of all, we believe that we have the opportunity to build a global household brand. Since Red Bull there hasn’t been a big global household brand in this arena and we believe that we are in the perfect situation to step in to this direction because we have a pedigree which has a multi-billion-dollar potential over the next few years and we believe we are in a perfect position to really get the reach here globally as a lifestyle brand, this is on the upper layer. On the lower layer, we are really excited about the future and being at the forefront of re-changing and shaping the way consumers are going to eat in the future. By building this platform which is innovative we are close to the customer and can build products that are perfectly suited for the modern consumer that solve a lot of problems such as health, convenience, and sustainability. It is really exciting because you believe that you are apart and can make a difference by changing the global consumption of food for the consumer.
The Hollywood London Magazine