For years, snacking was the enemy. From fizzy drinks, salty crisps, to sugary candy, snacks have gotten a bad wrap by the media. But one company are changing that, and transforming snacks from a guilty indulgence, to a healthy privilege. Meet 5th Season — we spoke to co-founder Stuart to learn how he’s helping make fruit accessible again, and bringing freeze-drying into fashion.
So what is 5th Season?
5th Season is a fruit snacking brand based on freeze-dried technology. This is a modern technique that differentiates us from the competition with the benefits that we are scientifically the next best thing to fresh fruit — we actually look, taste and retain the nutrients of REAL FRUIT!
Each pack is 1 of your 5-a-day and portion controlled, perfect for when you are in a rush. No time to chop up a pineapple or prepare a fruit salad? Grab a pack of 5th Season and know you are eating something that is genuinely good for you, 100% fruit and less than 50kcal.
That sounds great! Where did you get the idea from?
5th Season has two co-founders; myself (Stuart) and Tiffany. We have both spent our careers working in some of the unhealthiest food categories; we decided that it was time to use our expertise to create something that helps the UK population make healthier eating choices, and also does good in the world. Our mission is simple; to get people eating more fruit, by making all fruit accessible anytime, anywhere, anyhow, and in doing so to help farming communities to thrive, not just survive.
We originally met whilst skiing. where we got into a discussion about how difficult it is to consume 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day when you’re busy and working full time. After this initial idea was born, we did a review of the market, where it became clear that very few fruit snacks are genuinely healthy or actually look like fruit. This is especially important to Tiffany, who as a mother of 3, wants her kids to grow up knowing what real fruit looks, feels and tastes like. Knowing that nothing out there was good enough, we set about creating our own fruit snacks and landed on freeze-drying as this method is scientifically proven to be nutritionally the next best thing to fresh fruit.
How was the process of starting up? Did you face any obstacles?
As with all start up businesses we encountered ‘teething problems’. For us we had to overcome technical issues, because the freeze-drying industry is not well established in snacking
Freeze-dried fruit is very moisture sensitive and goes soft very quickly if left exposed to the air. This isn’t a problem in the categories where freeze-dried fruit is mostly used — cereal and baking. Milk is added to cereal and therefore it is accepted to be wet and soggy. In baking, it is included as an ingredient before it is typically baked and therefore the inclusion rate is very low. Within snacking, however, there is nowhere to hide, and the crispy freeze-dried texture must be retained otherwise the product doesn’t taste as we would like.
As a result we have had to implement new processes throughout the entire supply chain to ensure that the quality does not degrade between the fruit being picked and consumption by you, the consumer. This means a lot of quality checks taking place! We also had an invest in more robust packaging to ensure that moisture doesn’t slowly seep into the packs over time.
What challenges have you faced setting up 5th Season?
Prior to starting 5th Season, I always worked for huge food and drink companies. This meant that for any decision there were a lot of different opinions being considered, with numerous stakeholders to manage. In a small business there isn’t this level of bureaucracy; on one hand this is great because processes are accelerated, but on the other hand there is no support network. You have to face daily challenges alone, and in the majority of instances you are not the expert in this field. You just have to make the best decision you can with the information you have available at the time.
When I left the comfort of the corporate world I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy and new business owners starting out expect there to be a lot of hard work and long hours. What I never anticipated was the mental resilience and determination it takes — you have to battle anxiety, stress, burn out and being alone.
What advice would you give to a start-up starting out?
I would advise anyone looking to start out to build a network of other small business owners as a support network, because they understand what you’re going through from a mental wellbeing perspective. They can also save you from walking into the same business mistakes they made in the early days!
What do you think of the current situation in the UK’s mentality to snacking? Where does your passion for change come from?
The UK has some serious health issues — 2 in 3 adults are overweight/obesity, less that 1/3 of people achieve 5-a-day, and we need to increase our fibre intake by 50%. This is giving rise to health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers that can be avoided. I studied Nutrition at university and as a result I’m so passionate about changing this.
What’s something you’re most proud of when it comes to the product you deliver?
I am so proud that 5th Season tackles all these problems by being 100% fruit, 1 of 5-a-day, high in fibre and is less than 50 calories per pack. On top of this, people are surprised by how delicious our snacks are. I think this is because so many healthy products are often a compromise in taste — this isn’t the case with 5th Season.
This really hit home when we were exhibiting at a show recently. A little boy around the age of 6 came to our stand with his parents and after trying our fruit he spent his pocket money on buying 5th Season. If we can get children to spend their pocket money on eating fruit then we have hit the jackpot!
What would you want the future of your company to look like?
5th Season has big ambitions in order to change eating behaviours. I want to see people eating more fruit and as a result living a healthier lifestyle. 5th Season is the solution when fresh fruit is not convenient or you need something to easily eat on-the-go.
In the short term we need to conquer our current markets, but in the future the aim to be operating on a global level. We have just opened up global delivery on our web shop and at some point I hope to see 5th Season being sold in retail around the world. In doing this we will be having a huge positive impact.
What to check out a bit more about 5th Season? Their website is packed full of juicy, fruity information (www.5thseasonfruit.com).