Although more and more people in the UK are avoiding cows milk due to health concerns, the alternatives are rarely fresh. Some store leading brand almond milks are so heavily processed that they contain only 1% actual almonds! That is why The Pressery, founded by friends Natali Stajcic & Chi-San Wan, is committed to making fresh cold-pressed almond milks that are actually good for you. After their recent success in acquiring funding, we speak to Natali about the ups and downs of starting a food & drink business and and what she has learnt from the experience.
What gave you the idea for your business?
Chi and I love food and always have. We started to get a bit tired of the endless new burger restaurants opening up around London and wondered why it was so difficult to get a healthy lunch or dinner in such a vibrant city. This got us talking about starting something together.
We had been friends for 10 years, I was trying to hold down a full time job which I was struggling with as had a young baby and the job was not flexible and Chi-San was becoming disenchanted with the fashion world. We enrolled in a short course at the college of naturopathy as we knew we would want to do something that offered people an opportunity to make a healthier choice. During our time on the course we had started to believe that cold-pressed juice would be what we would do. We knew it had a HUGE market in the US and at that time there really wasn’t anyone doing it in the UK.
We noticed that a nicely branded company in Paris had launched cold-pressed juices and decided to get in contact with the founder and see if we could come and chat to him about his experience. Surely if he could get Parisians to drink green juice he must have some good advice. He did. It was mainly around the logistics and the kind of money and machinery you would require to start a cold-pressed juice company. We were starting this company on £6000. He said we would find it near impossible to make that work but noticed how excited we were about nut milks. That was our ‘light-bulb’ moment. Do one thing and do it really well. It also was a firm reminder to ask industry peers for help. There is no harm in asking.
The Pressery was born.
How did you find a market for you product?
As soon as we shifted our focus to nut milk we researched the market and found very exciting results. The nut milk, specifically almond milk, market was booming and going from strength to strength. Armed with that information we realised we had to act quickly. We made the decision to make almond milk just before Christmas 2013 and launch our first product on a market stall in February 2014.
That for me is the key. Stop talking about starting and just start. You will have to be flexible and things will change all the time. It is near impossible to have a perfect product from launch. You move and adjust as the business grows.
What are your plans for the future?
We, probably naively, thought we would be able to grow a business with a product that has a 4 day shelf life and requires very good constant refrigeration. We quickly realised that whilst our product was great and opened lots of doors for us that we needed to rethink our game plan.
Fresh products like ours are great if selling direct to customers for example in a juice bar but really tricky to supply other stores. There will always be either an amount of wastage or a period of being sold out. It is very hard to predict the purchasing habits of Londoners.
We noticed that there still isn’t a good quality convenience almond milk. This is what we are working to bring out, a great quality long life almond milk that can sell well in all kinds of retail spaces and also importantly works well with coffee. We are also going to be using HPP technology to extend the life of our flavoured bottles.
We raised money on Crowdcube, we were the second fastest funded business of all time. The fastest funded being Crowdcube themselves. We are now dealing with yet more things that are challenging and are constantly learning and adapting as we move forward. One thing we know and trust is that we have a strong message that we are eager to get out there. The new products will give us further reach.
We spend a lot of time working on our brand messaging. We are not simply trying to sell products, we are hoping to help challenge the way people purchase and what they purchase. We have a strong belief in education and not just for the privileged. We want to be available to reach all demographics and to be accessible and offer a simple measure towards a balanced lifestyle.