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Founded in her parents’ kitchen, Olivia Wollenberg’s plant-based snack brand, Livia’s, has taken off in the UK, with free-from treats flying off shelves in 3,200 stores across the country.
Fuelled by a sweet tooth, a few dietary restrictions, and a passion for plant-based goodness, Livia’s reached their funding target within just a few days of opening up to investors. With a range of sweet snacks that have garnered a vibrant cult following on Instagram, Livia’s has even more recipes in the pipeline, and this funding round will help bring them to life.
Here’s how the UK’s fastest growing plant-based snack brand got started.
What is Livia’s vision?
We’re trying to add a little magic and innovation to the plant-based and free-from world.
After being diagnosed with intolerances to wheat and dairy I spotted a clear gap in the market for gluten-free and vegan treats that were indulgent, satisfied my sweet cravings and always delivered on taste. I didn’t want to dunk a protein bar or energy ball into a cup of tea, and let’s be honest, who does?!
The free-from market was functional and niche, and I knew it didn’t have to be. There were so many people just like me who loved to indulge but who wanted to do so with treats made from better ingredients. So, I set out to create a company specialising in confectionery and desserts which were plant-based, gluten free and always natural, and that never compromised on taste. Taste has, and always will be the most important part!
How has the company grown since inception?
It’s actually amazing to think back on those first two years of business, when we were experimenting with new recipes and supplying scrumptious treats from my parent’s kitchen to high end retailers such as Selfridges, Planet Organic and Wholefoods. Their kitchen started to look like a fully-fledged food factory, and eventually there was no more space for the company to grow. So, I sourced a manufacturer that could make the required volumes and support our fast growth.
Since then our distribution has grown nationwide by over 1,600% and we’re now listed in over 3200 stores with 17,200 stocking points across the UK with three well known product ranges. We have listings in the UK’s largest supermarket and highstreet chains including Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Boots and Holland and Barrett and last year we hit revenues of £2.3. We’ve become the fastest growing free-from snack brand in the UK!
Who is your target market?
Anyone and everyone who likes sweet treats! Our products cater for those with allergies and intolerances like myself, but they are aimed to be mainstream. If you like a little something sweet then Livia’s is designed for you.
It’s been incredible to see the brand grow. We now have a social media following of over 200,000, one of the largest and most engaged following of any other food brand in the UK – and we love our customers. We’re always thinking of new ways to help them satisfy their sweet cravings.
What differentiates Livia’s from other snack brands available to consumers?
Livia’s has always, and will always focus on naturally scrumptious treats. Everything we make now, and going forward, will be natural, vegan and gluten-free, and always sweet. We have become known as the brand that really specialises in this area and could have products that sit in any category as long as they satisfy sweet cravings!
We are very different from the more functional energy bar and protein ball products that are common in free-from – our products are much more innovative and magical.
What recipes are available now and what do you have in the pipeline?
Our current three ranges, which our customers love are Million Squares, Nugglets and Dunx. We have focused to date on on-the-go products to date – small grab n’ go packs that you can pick up wherever and whenever you need a little boost. In the next few months we will be bringing our new formats, and in time completely new product ranges which we are all so excited about!
How do you come up with new recipes?
A lot of the time I dream them up! I dream in chocolate and often wake up thinking of the most delicious ideas. I then get to the kitchen and start experimenting with all the ingredients we use at Livia’s until I make something that I know can be a viable mainstream product. That’s the sweet genius behind all three of our ranges, and the new products we have upcoming.
What was one of the most exciting successes so far?
Gosh, so many. But I will never ever forget the day I launched our products in Selfridges. I just kept on going to the checkout to scan a product through, in total amazement that the barcode I had put on the packaging myself worked! I still get a total rush seeing our products in store, and getting messages from our customers on Instagram saying how much they love them. That will never get old.
What will be the greatest challenge going forward?
We have an incredibly exciting new product pipeline and the challenge will be having to avoid launching them all at once! We will need to stagger launches based on gaps and consumer needs, but it is very difficult to keep such delicious and exciting products under wraps for such a long time.
What do you think about when you hire new people?
Not only are fundamental capabilities for each role something we look at closely, but we also assess whether someone can live up to the Livia’s values. Someone can be incredibly skilled and knowledgeable, but they may not be the right cultural fit. The culture part is as, if not more, important. Our values are Bold, Playful, Open and Hungry, and in interviews we always look to see if candidates possess qualities that feed into each value.
Why did you choose crowdfunding?
We’re crowdfunding now to accelerate our growth and reach our mission even faster, making better-for-you indulgent treats accessible to everyone. We have the most wonderful and large communities and we wanted to get them involved now in a more meaningful way. What could be better than your customers also being your investors?!
This funding round will help us accelerate the launch of mouth-watering new products, boost marketing activities, expand our D2C platform, and grow our sales and operations teams. There is so much more distribution to come after this and we honestly couldn’t be more excited about it.
What’s your favourite dessert?
This is an impossible question. I love them all! Anything chocolatey. If I had to choose, hot chocolate peanut butter pudding probably takes the cake. I love to enjoy it baked so it’s warm, alongside vanilla cashew ice-cream. That’s the best.
What keeps you busy when you’re not working?
Seeing friends and family, and I love to exercise to blow off steam.
To find out more about Livia’s and join nearly 1,000 investors backing the future of plant-based treats, visit the pitch now.