In March this year, Solihull-based Grenade, a successful performance nutrition pioneer in the fast-growing high protein bar segment, sold a majority interest of the business to American snack giant Mondelēz International. The deal valued the business at £200 million.
Grenade was founded by Alan and Juliet Barratt in 2010 who aimed to become the number one brand in sports nutrition products. With strong historic performance, solid growth and share gains, Grenade has a strong eCommerce presence with approximately 25 percent of its sales from online channels.
Over the years, Grenade broadened its consumer base and launched new products including high-protein, low-sugar bars and innovated into new adjacencies including shakes, spreads and cookies.
Six months on, how does Juliet Barratt, Co-Founder of Grenade, feel about the once-in-a-lifetime deal?
“The sale felt a bit like Christmas; you’re really excited on Christmas Eve then by Boxing Day it’s almost a bit of an anti-climax. In the week leading up to the sale, there are so many emotions going on, is it going through, isn’t it going through, could this be the end of Grenade as I know it? And there was that uncertainty of real closure which is really tough because it’s now someone else’s baby.
“It takes a lot of time, money, research and development spend for big corporates like Mondelez to look at relatively niche areas like protein. Over the last ten years, Grenade has built up a phenomenal amount of credibility in the protein bars space and consumers trust the brand. We set up Grenade to make great products that people actually like and use, we had great new product development, a huge amount of shelf space in supermarkets and international sales. I think it’s very difficult for a player who is not already in that space to actually come in and build such trust and loyalty overnight.
“Ultimately, I was happy Grenade was sold to Mondelez as Al and I had originally discussed wanting to sell to Cadbury, so selling to Cadbury’s owners was even more of an achievement. It’s gone to a good home.”
However, Juliet admits that she had moved away from the day-to-day running of the business the previous year, which she says she found harder than the sale itself.
Alan and Juliet didn’t set up Grenade to make money.
Juliet explained: “We never set Grenade up to make money and if you do, you might get a short-term win, but you won’t get that consumer buy in which we did so well.
“We were also 100 per cent focused – we had sold our previous business and put all our money in to Grenade so there was no room for failure.
“Timing was also key as protein was becoming more popular, people were in to healthy lifestyles and as there hadn’t really been anything new in chocolate for a long time, it was time to disrupt! Grenade was one of the first protein bar brands where the bar tasted like chocolate and consumers were ready for that.
“Throughout the Grenade journey we stayed true to the brand. We had investors that had ideas as well and we took all those on board, but we had a clear direction and wanted to make sure consumers knew exactly what we stood for
“We truly believed in what we were doing; it was very genuine, and I think that is key when starting a business.”
“I sometimes don’t know how we got to where we did because neither of us had any business training. I had a very traditional background and left university to teach, and Al worked in gyms and had a distribution business.
“We just got stuck in, learned from our mistakes and educated ourselves. I remember having to Google how to put a barcode on the back of a box! We regularly felt out of our depth but we both loved the challenge and feeling a bit out of our comfort zone.
“We always had genuine belief in what we were doing, we didn’t know what each day would bring but that motivated us.”
The company didn’t have a financial director until it secured GrowthPoint investment in 2014 and then appointed Tom Murphy. “He was probably one of the best hires in the business and is still there now. We were great at selling and marketing, Tom was great at numbers and the team started to really grow. Bringing on good , like-minded people who free you up to do what you are really good at, selling and marketing the brand.”
What advice do you have for wannabe entrepreneurs who want to achieve the kind of success you have?
“Make sure there is a need for your business. Talk to people who will be honest about your idea. Just because you think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it will fly.
“It also worries me that business seems to be about borrowing money as opposed to making money or funding your own business. I’ve always been brought up to save money to buy something, not borrow,
“Timing is key. There’s never a right time start business but if you’ve just had a baby or just bought a house, then it might not be the right because you’ve got other pressures and while pressure can motivate, it will also add to the stress of starting a new venture. Grenade was launched in a recession and we always get asked why! Why not! When people are watching money they may not go out but do invest in looking good and gym memberships are a good way to get fit, meet people and have that social life.
“Stay true to your brand. Have clear vision of what you want to do. If you have a business partner, make sure you’re both aligned. You need to be able to communicate from the outset and know what your expectations are to avoid difficult conversations down the line.
“Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it then it’s probably not for you and it’s time to think about what to do next.”
Juliet is now applying her experience to work with new brands.
“I currently work with some growing food brands; LoveRaw, a vegan chocolate brand and Mister Freed, a vegan tortilla snacking brand. I work with a drinks brand and am looking at a couple of other opportunity’s because I genuinely love working with brands.
“I’m chairing some boards as a non-exec director and I’ve got quite a large commercial property portfolio, but that’s obviously a passive investment.
“I still haven’t really learned how to relax and have that work life balance.”