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Selling and marketing a superfood - with Simon Fineman - Haskapa
Episode 1402nd December 2022 • Bring Your Product Idea to Life • Vicki Weinberg
00:00:00 00:43:14

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My guest on the podcast today is Simon Fineman, who together with his wife, Dr. Evie Kemp runs Haspaka, a company selling nutritious products made from the little known but amazing haskap berry.

In a previous life, Simon ran a large timbering court importing company pioneering the use of sustainable timbers for industry and construction. A lifelong vegetarian. Simon is passionate about the environment and believes in the power of healthy eating in order to improve oneself and the world around us.

We discussed how Simon discovered the haskap berry and created a business selling products made from it. It was particularly interesting to discuss the nuances of marketing a product where you have to educate the audience of its value but ensure you don't make health benefit claims to follow industry regulations. 

Simon also has some great advice on the realities of running a business, and how to keep going when things get tough.

Listen in to hear Simon share:

  • An introduction to himself and his business (01:21)
  • How he discovered the haskap berry (02:12)
  • How the haskap berry is good for us (04:00)
  • Working out how to turn it into a product (06:35)
  • Why they moved the business from Canada to the UK (10:25)
  • Finding factories to process small amounts of the berries (14:51)
  • Selling his product in Canada, the USA and the UK (16:59)
  • The challenges of selling a product where you have to educate the consumer (18:27)
  • How they are reaching consumers via Trade Events (20:14)
  • The nuances and frustrations of having to make sure you don’t make health benefit claims in your marketing (25:48)
  • Selling a nutritional product on Amazon (28:38)
  • Keeping going when faced with challenges (34:25)
  • Working as a team with his wife (37:08)
  • His number one piece of advice for other product creators (39:25)

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Transcripts

Speaker:

Welcome to the Bring Your Product Ideas to Life podcast, practical advice

Speaker:

and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products.

Speaker:

Here's your host, Vicki Weinberg.

Vicki Weinberg:

My guest on the podcast today is Simon Fineman,

Vicki Weinberg:

together with his wife, Dr.

Vicki Weinberg:

Evie Kemp.

Vicki Weinberg:

Simon runs Haspaka selling nutritious products made from the little known

Vicki Weinberg:

but amazing little haskap berry.

Vicki Weinberg:

In a previous life, Simon ran a large timbering court importing company

Vicki Weinberg:

pioneering the use of sustainable timbers for industry and construction.

Vicki Weinberg:

A lifelong vegetarian.

Vicki Weinberg:

Simon is passionate about the environment and believes in the power

Vicki Weinberg:

of healthy eating in order to improve one's self and the world around us.

Vicki Weinberg:

I'm not sure if you've ever heard of a haskap berry.

Vicki Weinberg:

I certainly hadn't before.

Vicki Weinberg:

I, um, met Simon and I was really fascinated to learn about them

Vicki Weinberg:

and about their amazing properties and about the product that Simon

Vicki Weinberg:

and Evie together have created.

Vicki Weinberg:

This is an extremely interesting episode as all of our episodes are, and I

Vicki Weinberg:

really think you're going to enjoy what you're hearing about the haskap berry

Vicki Weinberg:

and some of the benefits of that as well as the product creation process.

Vicki Weinberg:

So I would love now to introduce you to Simon.

Vicki Weinberg:

Hello.

Vicki Weinberg:

Hi Simon.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you so much for being here.

Simon Fineman:

Hi Vicki.

Simon Fineman:

Nice to be here.

Vicki Weinberg:

So can we start with you, please give an introduction to yourself,

Vicki Weinberg:

your business, and what you sell.

Simon Fineman:

Okay.

Simon Fineman:

Well, um, I'm Simon.

Simon Fineman:

I am 62.

Simon Fineman:

I've been in business pretty much all my working career, but most of my, uh, I was

Simon Fineman:

in the timber industry, um, and uh, the timber industry led me into my current

Simon Fineman:

business, which is completely different.

Simon Fineman:

I sell haskap berry powder.

Simon Fineman:

And, um, it's freeze dried berry powder.

Simon Fineman:

And as I'm sure we we'll talk about in the next few minutes or whatever, the

Simon Fineman:

haskap berry is an extraordinary berry and, uh, my life nowadays is devoted

Simon Fineman:

to selling and marketing this product.

Vicki Weinberg:

Amazing.

Vicki Weinberg:

So actually let's start by talking about the haskap berry.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, tell us, you know, why did you get interested in, in the berries

Vicki Weinberg:

and why they're so good for us?

Vicki Weinberg:

Because I know they are considered a super food.

Vicki Weinberg:

Is that right?

Simon Fineman:

Yeah, they're a super food, super berry.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, and why did I get interested in them?

Simon Fineman:

Well, um, it's a, it, it's probably a, um, a, a, an unusual route

Simon Fineman:

in, in the sense that I mentioned I was in the timber industry.

Simon Fineman:

I was very into sustainable forestry.

Simon Fineman:

I still am.

Simon Fineman:

And, uh, to that end, I, uh, managed to buy myself a small farm in.

Simon Fineman:

Um, I say a small farm.

Simon Fineman:

It was about 300 acres.

Simon Fineman:

And when I say a farm, that's what Canadians call a wood lot, and this

Simon Fineman:

was two hundred and eighty, two eighty acres of woodland and 20

Simon Fineman:

acres of beautiful green fields.

Simon Fineman:

And my friends and I looked at those green fields and we thought, what waste?

Simon Fineman:

Nobody is farming these 20 acres of beautiful green fields.

Simon Fineman:

And we uh, literally went onto Google to look for an interesting

Simon Fineman:

crop and we found haskap berries.

Simon Fineman:

And we bought 100 bushes and planted them.

Simon Fineman:

I think it was about 2010, and we were so impressed with what we got

Simon Fineman:

the following year that we started to ramp up and that eventually grew into

Simon Fineman:

Haskapa, the business that I run nowadays.

Vicki Weinberg:

In a moment.

Vicki Weinberg:

Let's talk, we'll talk a little bit about that, Simon, about the

Vicki Weinberg:

evolution of Haskapa and, and you know, and where that took you.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, but let's talk a bit about the haskap berry.

Vicki Weinberg:

Why are they so good for us?

Simon Fineman:

Well, they are, um, they're an arctic berry.

Simon Fineman:

They grow naturally in very cold northern climates and in order to

Simon Fineman:

survive in those kind of environments, the plant itself is extremely hardy

Simon Fineman:

because it, it's growing in, um, winters of minus who knows what, 20, 30.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and uh, therefore because it's such a hardy plant, it produces

Simon Fineman:

an extremely nutritious berry.

Simon Fineman:

This is my totally unscientific explanation.

Simon Fineman:

If you, if you want the real science, you have to go to my wife Evie, who's much

Simon Fineman:

cleverer and understands all the science.

Simon Fineman:

But I think in lay terms, um, this very hardy bush produces

Simon Fineman:

an incredibly nutritious berry.

Simon Fineman:

And what's amazing about the berry is it's a very deep red color.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and that's, uh, that color is associated with

Simon Fineman:

something called anthocyanins.

Simon Fineman:

And anthocyanins are the deep red colors that you find in fruit and vegetables.

Simon Fineman:

They're one extreme of the kind of eat the rainbow idea.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and, uh, the berry itself is packed full of, um,

Simon Fineman:

antioxidants and anthocyanins.

Simon Fineman:

It's got, um, three, three times the antioxidants of a blueberry

Simon Fineman:

and four times the anthocyanins.

Simon Fineman:

So it's, it's much more nutritious than a blueberry, and that's mainly because

Simon Fineman:

it's got a thick skin and it's got this deep red flesh all the way through.

Simon Fineman:

If you were to cut a blueberry in half, you'd see white flesh.

Simon Fineman:

And you are only really getting the antioxidant and

Simon Fineman:

the anthocyanin from the skin.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, but a haskap berry, if you cut it down the middle, it's

Simon Fineman:

deep colored all the way through.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, add to that, it, it's delicious.

Simon Fineman:

It tastes great.

Simon Fineman:

I mean, it's, it's the most berry thing that you'll ever eat.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and so at, there are occasionally people who don't

Simon Fineman:

like the flavor of berries, but most people, they just love it.

Simon Fineman:

They're knocked over.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you for the explanation because I'm not

Vicki Weinberg:

sure, um, how many people would've heard of the haskap berry.

Vicki Weinberg:

And so when you started growing them, did you have any idea about what the berry

Vicki Weinberg:

was and about all of its properties?

Vicki Weinberg:

Or were you just looking for something, you know, any

Vicki Weinberg:

sort of crop that might take?

Simon Fineman:

No, I think when we started growing it, we.

Simon Fineman:

We knew, like most people know that berries are good for you.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, but the truth is we didn't know any, I didn't know anything about the science.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and, uh, we just, uh, we, we kind of had a vague idea about this super

Simon Fineman:

berry status and we knew a little bit about the enhanced um, antioxidant,

Simon Fineman:

anthocyanins profile, but actually when we first started, Evie wasn't involved.

Simon Fineman:

We started to make things like jam and juice and we, we played on

Simon Fineman:

the, uh, great taste of the berry, assuming that we were producing

Simon Fineman:

nutritious jam and nutritious juice.

Simon Fineman:

And really it was only because, uh, Evie literally overheard repeated conversations

Simon Fineman:

I was having with my colleagues and she pointed out, look, if you are making

Simon Fineman:

jam and juice, you are adding tons of sugar and you are processing the berries,

Simon Fineman:

boiling them often for kind of, you know, in the case of jam for hours, she said

Simon Fineman:

there won't be much nutrient left in them.

Simon Fineman:

You can't claim that it's a really nutritious product.

Simon Fineman:

So, that kind of got Evie a bit engaged, which was a real blessing because her

Simon Fineman:

curiosity was kind of aroused as to how could we make this into something

Simon Fineman:

that genuinely was nutritious.

Simon Fineman:

And we started searching around for products that captured the

Simon Fineman:

nutritional value of berries.

Simon Fineman:

And we found, uh, bear in mind, we were in, uh, Nova Scotia,

Simon Fineman:

Canada . We still, uh, the farm still is in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and we found in Newfoundland, uh, uh, both of these provinces are on the cold

Simon Fineman:

extreme east side, the Canadian coast.

Simon Fineman:

We found in Newfoundland a little factory that was making, uh, powdered fruits.

Simon Fineman:

So we commissioned them to make some haskap berry powder and they actually

Simon Fineman:

did, they did a pretty good job for us.

Simon Fineman:

Um, they didn't use freeze drying.

Simon Fineman:

They used a different technique, which I won't go into, but it really got

Simon Fineman:

Evie and I thinking that, you know, if we want to be a health brand, and

Simon Fineman:

we are talking about 10 years ago here, if we want to be a health brand.

Simon Fineman:

We can't be doing juice and we can't be doing jam.

Simon Fineman:

And uh, we did wine and gin, we did all sorts of products.

Simon Fineman:

We had a little farm shop and we, and we were selling good, good

Simon Fineman:

amounts of product, but we thought we couldn't be doing those things.

Simon Fineman:

We have to do something that's genuinely healthy.

Simon Fineman:

And, uh, we had a, uh, we had a great August one year where we started pushing

Simon Fineman:

the powder and we were selling a lot of it and this health line obviously,

Simon Fineman:

Uh, uh, chimed with certain customers.

Simon Fineman:

And, uh, then really the scene was set and Evie and I, Evie became

Simon Fineman:

much more involved in the business and it, it became totally focused.

Simon Fineman:

We dropped all the other products and we became totally focused on this health

Simon Fineman:

message because, um, oh, we are not allowed to make health claims, of course.

Simon Fineman:

Um, but.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, most people like, uh, like I did at the beginning, they

Simon Fineman:

understand that super berries are associated with a healthy diet.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you.

Vicki Weinberg:

And so at that point when you decided, okay, we're going to start a haskap Health

Vicki Weinberg:

brand and we're going to do something with this, um, what happened then?

Vicki Weinberg:

So did you have to do, sort of Go for a product development stage,

Vicki Weinberg:

um, to end up with the freeze dry powder that you have now?

Simon Fineman:

Well, um, a little bit, yes, but actually the, the, uh,

Simon Fineman:

the bigger issue for us was, um, a.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, our own people understanding what we were trying to do.

Simon Fineman:

And, uh, we were in, uh, we were based in the UK, the business was based in Canada

Simon Fineman:

and it was really, really difficult to uh, bring our staff who were working

Simon Fineman:

full time in Canada into the, uh, kind of ideology that Evie and I were taking

Simon Fineman:

on board about, uh, the health message.

Simon Fineman:

I haven't mentioned this, but you know, I know Vicki, but Evie's a doctor.

Simon Fineman:

So, um, uh, so eventually four or five years ago, we took quite

Simon Fineman:

a painful decision that you asked about product development.

Simon Fineman:

The product was kind of developed.

Simon Fineman:

We, we, we, we knew that freeze dried powder was the way forward.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, but we decided, um, four or five years ago that unless we started running

Simon Fineman:

the business ourselves at very close quarters, day to day, it was never going

Simon Fineman:

to succeed with the, uh, message that we wanted to convey, that we wanted to,

Simon Fineman:

uh, the brand that we wanted to promote.

Simon Fineman:

So at that point, we decided to move the whole business to the UK . And, uh,

Simon Fineman:

that was an, an expensive and, um, and it was a, um, traumatic exercise, but

Simon Fineman:

it was really worth doing because it meant that we could work very, very, uh,

Simon Fineman:

uh, in a very focused way on building the brand around the product that we

Simon Fineman:

developed, in the way we wanted the brand.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, and, and, and that's pretty much essentially the brand you can see today.

Vicki Weinberg:

And had you already launched a product in the brands when

Vicki Weinberg:

you moved the operation to the UK?

Simon Fineman:

Yeah.

Simon Fineman:

Yes.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, not, not, not quite in the same format as it is now, but very similar.

Simon Fineman:

We decided when we got to the UK, when we got it back to the uk, we

Simon Fineman:

decided to, um, redesign the packaging.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and, uh, we relaunched the website.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, which were, um, big exercises.

Simon Fineman:

I mean, we're a very small business, you know, we've only

Simon Fineman:

ever been four or five people.

Simon Fineman:

We still are.

Simon Fineman:

Um, uh, but we, we, we got good people with us, you know, um, and they took it

Simon Fineman:

on board and, and we were able to do that.

Simon Fineman:

And ever since then, the business has been growing very nicely.

Vicki Weinberg:

So did you originally launch in Canada, um, or did you

Vicki Weinberg:

launch in the UK at the same time?

Simon Fineman:

No, we, we, uh, we originally launched in Canada, but in

Simon Fineman:

Canada the powder was only really one of a number of products, and, um, we just

Simon Fineman:

came to the realization that so long as it was, uh, sat on a shelf next to Haskapa

Simon Fineman:

Gin or Haskapa wine, or Haskapa, uh, jam.

Simon Fineman:

We also did, um, a, a chutney that was, it tasted great, but these weren't,

Simon Fineman:

these weren't healthy products.

Simon Fineman:

They, they were lovely products.

Simon Fineman:

They were delicatessen products, they were premium products.

Simon Fineman:

But it, it, we, we wanted to focus on something that we thought would be

Simon Fineman:

part of a healthy diet and, uh, the Canadian business in the Canadian.

Simon Fineman:

That was really only one small part of a bigger picture and we

Simon Fineman:

wanted it to be the main part.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that makes sense.

Vicki Weinberg:

And I can also see, I can, I, I can definitely see how it would've been a

Vicki Weinberg:

really painful process sort of moving the business to the UK, but I guess

Vicki Weinberg:

based on all that history you shared with us, I think that it does make sense.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, yeah, I mean, uh, look, looking back on it, um, I, I don't

Simon Fineman:

regret what we've, uh, what we've done.

Simon Fineman:

I think we did the right thing.

Simon Fineman:

It was tough at the time, uh, but I think it's really paid off since.

Vicki Weinberg:

So did that mean that production move to the UK, so, I mean, I

Vicki Weinberg:

know the berries are still grown in Nova Scotia, but does production move over?

Simon Fineman:

Well, one of the problems that we had in Canada, one

Simon Fineman:

of the uh, uh, perpetual problems we had in Canada was that we're a very

Simon Fineman:

small, almost cottage size business.

Simon Fineman:

And it was very difficult to persuade Canadian, uh, on, and let

Simon Fineman:

me say North American because the USA is involved in this as well.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, we.

Simon Fineman:

Factories to produce ti relatively tiny quantities that we needed.

Simon Fineman:

I mean, when we talk about tiny quantities, you know, we'll, we'll

Simon Fineman:

regularly process 10 or 15 tons of, uh, berries, uh, but to an American

Simon Fineman:

factory, and that includes Canada.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, that's a very small volume.

Simon Fineman:

And what we discovered was that there was also a very vibrant

Simon Fineman:

and interesting haskap berry and general berry industry in Poland.

Simon Fineman:

And Poland had a completely different attitude to small volumes.

Simon Fineman:

And we found factories in Poland where there were only too happy to take orders

Simon Fineman:

for 10 or 15 tons and so it was quite easy to switch production to Poland and

Simon Fineman:

Poland had the added advantage that there was a ready supply of organic berries in

Simon Fineman:

Poland, which we couldn't get in Canada.

Simon Fineman:

So we grow our own berries in Canada and uh, they're not certified organic,

Simon Fineman:

although I assure everybody and anybody that we are an all natural farm.

Simon Fineman:

We don't use chemicals on our farm.

Simon Fineman:

Um, but it, but, but, but in Poland, we're able to buy organic berries.

Simon Fineman:

So that gives us, uh, a nice second, uh, uh, kind of, uh, arm to the

Simon Fineman:

business so we can offer an organic and a, and a non-organic product.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, that's brilliant.

Vicki Weinberg:

And you mentioned as well that Poland, the haskap berry was

Vicki Weinberg:

more well known over there.

Vicki Weinberg:

So I wanted to talk a little bit about how you launched a product

Vicki Weinberg:

into different countries, because I assume that it's been different.

Vicki Weinberg:

You probably had a different experience in different countries based on whether

Vicki Weinberg:

they actually knew what haskap berry was, um, whether they're familiar with it.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, can you talk a little bit about that, please?

Simon Fineman:

Sure.

Simon Fineman:

Well, we, we, uh, we sell really mainly in three countries, uh, the United

Simon Fineman:

Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

Simon Fineman:

And, um, it actually, it's only in Canada where there's a significant

Simon Fineman:

awareness of haskap and even there, it's, it's not great.

Simon Fineman:

I think if you walked up to 20 people in Toronto and asked them what a

Simon Fineman:

haskap berry is, I, I'd be surprised if more than one or two of them

Simon Fineman:

knew, uh, but that's, that's a much, much bigger response than you'd get

Simon Fineman:

in London or, or any American city.

Simon Fineman:

It's a very niche product.

Simon Fineman:

It's a very special product, but there aren't that many haskap

Simon Fineman:

berries grown in the world.

Simon Fineman:

The country where they're best known is Japan, uh, because they were

Simon Fineman:

traditionally grown by the Ainu people of the island, the northern

Simon Fineman:

island of Japan, which is Hakaido.

Simon Fineman:

And so in Japan, they are quite well known, but they're really not well known.

Simon Fineman:

So it, that presents a really difficult challenge.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, how do you educate the consumer, um, uh, that you have a really new berry.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and it's not a berry that set, that keeps well as a fresh berry.

Simon Fineman:

So it has to be sold in a, uh, in a, in a, in a freeze dry format.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, so you are, you are also asking people to understand what to do with

Simon Fineman:

berry powder as opposed to berries.

Simon Fineman:

Everybody understands you buy fresh berries, you put them in

Simon Fineman:

a fruit salad, you eat them.

Simon Fineman:

Um, they don't necessarily understand what you do with powder.

Simon Fineman:

So the education part of, of our, uh, challenge is massive.

Simon Fineman:

Um, it's made easier in Canada when people have heard of haskap.

Simon Fineman:

Um, but it isn't easy wherever we are.

Simon Fineman:

It's always been, uh, tough.

Simon Fineman:

And actually the, um, the, the format that we find is easiest, um, in terms

Simon Fineman:

of selling the product is probably face to face in exhibitions where, uh,

Simon Fineman:

people, uh, get, the first thing we do is we say to people, do you eat berries?

Simon Fineman:

Say, yeah, we eat blueberries, say, have you tried a haskap berry?

Simon Fineman:

They go, oh, what's a haskap berry?

Simon Fineman:

And we, we show them what a haskap berry is, and we get them to taste the powder.

Simon Fineman:

And once they've tasted the powder, while people are generally knocked over

Simon Fineman:

by the flavor, and then it's relatively easy to, uh, sell them a pouch.

Simon Fineman:

And, and we have a customer.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that does, that does make sense because I think

Vicki Weinberg:

especially when it's something that's very unfamiliar, it's good for PPR

Vicki Weinberg:

to be able to see it and try it.

Vicki Weinberg:

So at these exhibitions, are you, are these, um, exhibitions

Vicki Weinberg:

where you're reaching consumers or, or more like trade events?

Vicki Weinberg:

Or are you doing a bit of both?

Simon Fineman:

Uh, well we do mostly consumer events.

Simon Fineman:

So we've done shows like, um, uh, uh, just the, and we've done, uh,

Simon Fineman:

uh, food festivals, uh, in November.

Simon Fineman:

We're doing the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and, uh, we are also branching out next year in 2023 into, uh, sports

Simon Fineman:

exhibitions because, Um, there's a whole long story to tell you about how has it's

Simon Fineman:

clinically proven to, uh, help, uh, sports people with their e exercise endurance.

Simon Fineman:

You want me to tell you about that?

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, go for it.

Vicki Weinberg:

I'm in, I'm interested.

Simon Fineman:

Okay.

Simon Fineman:

So, uh, Evie being a doctor, uh, said early on, uh, in, in the evolution of our

Simon Fineman:

business, that we had to have clinical evidence that haskap was a healthy food.

Simon Fineman:

And, uh, to that end, we at clinic clinical trials of any product are

Simon Fineman:

extremely expensive, but we put the money together to do two clinical trials.

Simon Fineman:

The first one, which I won't talk much about was, um, was connected with

Simon Fineman:

cognition, uh, in the over 50 fives.

Simon Fineman:

And it was found, uh, that it, that eating haskap every day helped.

Simon Fineman:

People over 55 includes me with, uh, word recall.

Simon Fineman:

So it, it, it sharpens the brain a little bit and also it helps, uh, to,

Simon Fineman:

to reduce blood pressure a little.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and actually if I talk about the second study that partly explains the,

Simon Fineman:

uh, the first study as well in terms of how the berry works on the blood system.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, really I'm not the person to tell you all this Evie is, but I'm

Simon Fineman:

going to try in my amateur way.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, so the second, uh, trial we did was with Northumbria University and they

Simon Fineman:

set up student athletes running 5K and they fed some of them, um, um, haskap

Simon Fineman:

uh, about T two teaspoons every day and they fed some of them at placebo.

Simon Fineman:

And what they found was that those that had taken Haskapa

Simon Fineman:

were able to knock something like 21 seconds off their 5K run.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, which is for a runner, that's a big improvement.

Simon Fineman:

And it's all to do with, um, boy, I'm, I'm really not going to get into explaining

Simon Fineman:

the science because I'm just not a scientist, but it's all to do with, with

Simon Fineman:

the, with the way that the, um, the, the anthocyanins in the berry open up the

Simon Fineman:

blood vessels and get the blood flowing better around the body, and therefore

Simon Fineman:

get oxygen around the body and oxygen.

Simon Fineman:

That's why I said it's connected to the first study as well, because, um,

Simon Fineman:

it, the, the cognition study was all about oxygen getting to the brain.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, the, the, uh, the exercise study was all about oxygen, getting

Simon Fineman:

to the, um, uh, to the muscles.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, so both clinical trials really successful and have kind of given us

Simon Fineman:

a, a, a big leg up in terms of the identifying the markets we want to target.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, so runners are a really obvious target because if you can stand

Simon Fineman:

in front of a runner and say, Hey, you, you take this powder.

Simon Fineman:

And, uh, you've taken it Vicki, you'll hopefully testify that it's very tasty.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, you take this powder every day, two teaspoons a day.

Simon Fineman:

Take it with your yogurt.

Simon Fineman:

Take it with your breakfast cereal, put it in smoothies, have it on your fruit

Simon Fineman:

salad, whatever, and you'll run faster.

Simon Fineman:

Well, that sells it.

Simon Fineman:

It's a good, it's a good message.

Simon Fineman:

And, um, it, I'm a runner.

Simon Fineman:

I've been a runner all my life.

Simon Fineman:

I know it works because I've felt it's an impact on my own body, but

Simon Fineman:

we've never measured and nor will we.

Simon Fineman:

Um, but we have measured it at Northumbria University and there's a film kick

Simon Fineman:

knocking around, um, a YouTube video that's on our website that goes into

Simon Fineman:

much, much more, um, um, uh, detail than I possibly could about how it all happened.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, well, if you send me that link, we'll include that

Vicki Weinberg:

in the show notes for the episode.

Vicki Weinberg:

So anyone who wants to can go and have a look, yeah.

Vicki Weinberg:

But I think that was a very good explanation.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you.

Vicki Weinberg:

And then, yeah, I'm a runner as well, so I was, yeah, very interested in that.

Vicki Weinberg:

And so having the clinical trials done, I guess, does that, I know you still

Vicki Weinberg:

can't make health claims, but does having the clinical trials mean you

Vicki Weinberg:

can say this will help you run faster, for example, or this will help with

Vicki Weinberg:

cognitive recall in the over 50 fives.

Vicki Weinberg:

Can you make those claims now that you've had the trials done?

Simon Fineman:

I think in a roundabout way, I'm not an expert and we are

Simon Fineman:

incredibly careful about the, of course, about not making health claims.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and in any cases you well know if you start making health claims, you

Simon Fineman:

are straight away, you are, you are, you're not backed by Amazon and Google

Simon Fineman:

and yeah, Facebook, they won't let you.

Simon Fineman:

You can refer people to the science and there's, there's,

Simon Fineman:

there's nice ways of doing that.

Simon Fineman:

Um, I mean, for example, I think we've got an email going out fairly soon

Simon Fineman:

where we have a call to action, a button on the, on the email that says,

Simon Fineman:

press here if you want to run faster.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and there's obviously a bit of narrative around.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and we've got, I think, uh, good, um, uh, blogs and articles and, uh,

Simon Fineman:

definitely videos explaining the, the actual facts of what we did.

Simon Fineman:

But you, you know, you can't make health claims, um, and there's no point

Simon Fineman:

in getting upset about that because it's very clear what you can and can't

Simon Fineman:

do, and you can't make health claims.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you.

Vicki Weinberg:

And I think that's really good everyone to know that as well because I think people

Vicki Weinberg:

can get tripped up particularly on Amazon, which we'll talk about in a minute.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, because Amazon obviously take any kind of claim extremely seriously.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, and you don't even have to make a health claim for them to

Vicki Weinberg:

say you've made a health claim.

Vicki Weinberg:

So yeah, I do get, it's the, and I think that does present a challenge

Vicki Weinberg:

of a product like yours that is so good for you, um, in that you

Vicki Weinberg:

can't always say how good it is for.

Simon Fineman:

Yeah, it's a, it's a huge source of frustration.

Simon Fineman:

Um, but I get it.

Simon Fineman:

I mean, I understand, uh, I understand where the regulators are coming from.

Simon Fineman:

I think what's really frustrating is that, um, brands that, brands that

Simon Fineman:

feature foods that really are not good for people are able to make such

Simon Fineman:

a huge splash advertising, um, and, um, , and yet there we are this tiny

Simon Fineman:

little brand, which it is very hard to argue that eating a berry powder, any

Simon Fineman:

kind of berry powder and certainly has berry powder isn't, isn't good for you.

Simon Fineman:

It's, it's, it's really very highly likely to be a component of a healthy diet.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and you've got to be very careful about what you say.

Simon Fineman:

So it's frustrating.

Simon Fineman:

But those are the, those are the rules we have to live with, you know, and we do.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yes.

Vicki Weinberg:

And let's talk a little bit now about selling on Amazon because we've said,

Vicki Weinberg:

um, it can be a challenge selling into marketplaces where people aren't aware

Vicki Weinberg:

of haskap they're not aware of the berry, they don't know what they are.

Vicki Weinberg:

And then on Amazon, obviously you have the additional challenge of all

Vicki Weinberg:

the things you can't tell people.

Vicki Weinberg:

So if, for example, on your own website you can say a lot more,

Vicki Weinberg:

yes, you can't make claims, but you can still talk a bit more freely.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, so let's talk a bit about what your experience selling on

Vicki Weinberg:

Amazon has been like to date.

Simon Fineman:

Yeah, I wish I, you could probably explain it to me

Simon Fineman:

better than I could explain it.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, Amazon is there, it, it, it's, it's kind of a, a mystery.

Simon Fineman:

You, you, you, um, you go on, uh, I mean, it's okay to say, isn't it Vicki,

Simon Fineman:

that you set us up on Amazon, um, and you did a great job and from, from

Simon Fineman:

somewhere we don't know where people come and find you on Amazon and they start

Simon Fineman:

buying and they come back and they buy again, and you don't know who they are.

Simon Fineman:

And, uh, all you know is that every day the sales seem to roll in.

Simon Fineman:

And, uh, we, we experience, uh, continuous growth on Amazon.

Simon Fineman:

We'd love to know who we're selling to, but we don't really

Simon Fineman:

know who we're selling to.

Simon Fineman:

Um, but it, it works, uh, I have to say it's expensive.

Simon Fineman:

Um, we, we don't make huge amounts, uh, on, on the, uh, powder.

Simon Fineman:

We sell on Amazon.

Simon Fineman:

Um, but the volumes are, are, are really, you know, they're

Simon Fineman:

too, they're too good to ignore.

Simon Fineman:

So we keep doing it.

Vicki Weinberg:

I think a lot of people have that same experience, which is

Vicki Weinberg:

that yes the margins aren't great because as you say, it is expensive.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, however the customers are there and I think that's one of the advantages is

Vicki Weinberg:

that you are not having to get people onto your website or you know, find them

Vicki Weinberg:

through Facebook ads or whatever it is.

Vicki Weinberg:

They actually are there on Amazon and as long as sort of you are ad you are

Vicki Weinberg:

listing and ads if you're running them, are sort of targeting the right people.

Vicki Weinberg:

Hopefully, and, and you've obviously got your set up well,

Vicki Weinberg:

um, hopefully they'll find you.

Simon Fineman:

And Yeah, they do.

Simon Fineman:

And I, I would agree with every word you said.

Simon Fineman:

It's like you've just got to be there.

Simon Fineman:

Do you know, tick all the boxes, make sure you are, you've got everything

Simon Fineman:

in order and, and things move on.

Simon Fineman:

We, I, we had a recent scare with Amzon, because, uh, I, I, I don't know,

Simon Fineman:

I think in common with quite a lot of other niche food brands, Amazon took

Simon Fineman:

a funny stand on this, um, uh, HFSS business, which for those of you who

Simon Fineman:

don't know, is, is a traffic light, uh, marker system, um, pointing out what

Simon Fineman:

foods are healthy and what foods are less healthy according to the content.

Simon Fineman:

Well Haskapa is very tasty, partly because it's 50% natural sugar,

Simon Fineman:

but, um, we sell 100 gram pouches.

Simon Fineman:

A hundred grams is 30 portions, so a daily portion is about three grams.

Simon Fineman:

And that's about one to one and a half grams of natural sugar.

Simon Fineman:

Well, the, the regulations judge us on the amount of sugar in the

Simon Fineman:

hundred gram pouch, not on the amount of sugar in a a daily portion.

Simon Fineman:

So it really isn't much harm for anybody to take one or one

Simon Fineman:

and a half grams of sugar a day.

Simon Fineman:

It would be quite harmful if they were taking 50 grams of sugar, but

Simon Fineman:

nobody in their right mind would eat a whole packet of haskap in one go.

Simon Fineman:

It just, it just wouldn't happen.

Simon Fineman:

Amazon enforced the rules very, very enthusiastically and we pointed out to

Simon Fineman:

them why we were exempted from, uh, having a red sticker, uh, on about four or five

Simon Fineman:

different, uh, regulatory, um, uh, basis.

Simon Fineman:

And, uh, to my knowledge, they still haven't fully excluded us from that.

Simon Fineman:

And I understand from social media, there are thousands of brands caught

Simon Fineman:

up in the same problem with Amazon.

Simon Fineman:

So, uh, that's a frustration.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, I'll be honest, it doesn't seem to have affected sales

Simon Fineman:

yet, but it potentially could.

Vicki Weinberg:

Well, I hope not.

Vicki Weinberg:

And um, yeah, I do think there's something worth people knowing actually, that Amazon

Vicki Weinberg:

tend to take a hard line on anything.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, I think they always err on the side of caution and, and perhaps, in

Vicki Weinberg:

my opinion anyway, go a little bit too far in enforcing certain rules.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, yeah, but I, I think it's good it hasn't impacted your sales.

Vicki Weinberg:

I really hope it doesn't, and I think it is also just good for everyone

Vicki Weinberg:

to know that these things do happen.

Vicki Weinberg:

They will happen, but actually you can always get around them.

Vicki Weinberg:

It's just very frustrating, as I'm sure you agree, Simon, at the time.

Simon Fineman:

Yeah, it is.

Simon Fineman:

Well, business is like that.

Simon Fineman:

Every business is like that.

Simon Fineman:

You know, all my life I've been in business and you never go a week

Simon Fineman:

without some big blow coming along, and you think at first, oh wow, how

Simon Fineman:

are we going to get around that?

Simon Fineman:

And then you work it out.

Simon Fineman:

You, you sit back, you, you think about it and you, you work it out.

Simon Fineman:

Yeah.

Simon Fineman:

Yeah.

Simon Fineman:

This isn't as bad as it looked.

Simon Fineman:

Um, and uh, this business with Amazon, it's just like that, you

Simon Fineman:

know, we will persuade Amazon.

Simon Fineman:

I know we will, that it doesn't apply to us.

Simon Fineman:

And um, so will the thousands of other brands who are impacted

Simon Fineman:

unfairly and uh, life will go.

Simon Fineman:

And so, um, I kind of, I say this as though I'm really relaxed about it all,

Simon Fineman:

although I promise you every time it happens, I, I lose my, Evie will tell

Simon Fineman:

you that there are countless occasions when I say, oh God, let's give it all up.

Simon Fineman:

But we don't, we keep going because, uh, after I've had that 10 minutes to

Simon Fineman:

reflect on it, and Evie's calmed me down.

Simon Fineman:

Um, we realized, no, this isn't as big as we thought.

Simon Fineman:

We'll find a way around it.

Simon Fineman:

We can carry on, and so we go on.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you.

Vicki Weinberg:

And I, you know, I think that's really good for people to hear because we

Vicki Weinberg:

have people listening who are very early in their business journeys,

Vicki Weinberg:

perhaps just starting out, and I think it's really assuring to hear

Vicki Weinberg:

you say yes, things will go wrong.

Vicki Weinberg:

They might go wrong quite often, but you will get through it.

Vicki Weinberg:

And you'll keep going.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, because as you, you may remember, so I mean, you've been a business a r

Vicki Weinberg:

a long time, but the first, I think the first setbacks you get are almost the

Vicki Weinberg:

hardest because you're not expecting them and they do seem insurmountable.

Vicki Weinberg:

But once you've sort of dealt with setback, after setback,

Vicki Weinberg:

like after blow, you realize actually I, I'm quite resilient

Vicki Weinberg:

and I'm going to get through this.

Simon Fineman:

Is absolutely part of business.

Simon Fineman:

I mean, when I was running the timber business, it was

Simon Fineman:

a much, much bigger business.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, wow.

Simon Fineman:

The number of things that came along where you thought, oh, that

Simon Fineman:

shouldn't happen, you get really upset about it, and you learn over time.

Simon Fineman:

No, no, no.

Simon Fineman:

You mustn't get so upset about it.

Simon Fineman:

You just gotta take it in your stride and you've got to get life in context.

Simon Fineman:

You know?

Simon Fineman:

Um, I, um, I, I sent somebody a, um, a, a, um, it was a

Simon Fineman:

newspaper article a few weeks ago.

Simon Fineman:

We were discussing a problem that we had in business and I sent him a newspaper

Simon Fineman:

article pointing out that there are 3 billion people in the world who can't

Simon Fineman:

afford to eat a proper diet, and that puts into context all of my problems,

Simon Fineman:

whatever my problems are with Haskapa and the frustrations with Amazon or whatever.

Simon Fineman:

It counts for nothing compared to those poor 3 billion people who

Simon Fineman:

don't get a decent diet every day.

Simon Fineman:

So, you know, you have to sit back and think, yeah, I'm a lucky person.

Simon Fineman:

I get to deal with these business issues.

Simon Fineman:

Wow, that's great.

Vicki Weinberg:

Absolutely.

Vicki Weinberg:

And that's a really great mindset to have.

Vicki Weinberg:

And I also really liked what you said earlier about taking 10 minutes to

Vicki Weinberg:

be upset and do whatever you need to do to get out of your system.

Vicki Weinberg:

Then going, okay, I've been upset, let's move on and deal with it.

Simon Fineman:

Yeah.

Simon Fineman:

And having a great partner is part of that, isn't it?

Simon Fineman:

You know?

Simon Fineman:

So, um, my wife is, uh, she's so great at just sort of not, not dismissing

Simon Fineman:

it, you know, she takes it really seriously, but she's very good at

Simon Fineman:

saying, we'll find a way through it.

Simon Fineman:

Come on, let's think about it.

Simon Fineman:

And sure enough, we do.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah.

Vicki Weinberg:

I think you, I think you two make a good team.

Simon Fineman:

Yeah.

Simon Fineman:

Yeah.

Simon Fineman:

I mean, it's tremendous.

Simon Fineman:

I, I, I, I don't know if you want to talk about this, but you know that we,

Simon Fineman:

we've, uh, we've had, we've had separate careers up until our sixties, and

Simon Fineman:

Evie's only just turned 60 and I'm 62.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, but working together in, shall we say, the twilight of

Simon Fineman:

our career, it's been amazing.

Simon Fineman:

I, I, you really after.

Simon Fineman:

We've been together 40 years and we've discovered things about each other

Simon Fineman:

from working with each other that we really didn't appreciate previously.

Simon Fineman:

So I can thoroughly recommend, um, uh, partnering in business with your wife

Simon Fineman:

or husband or whatever, or partner.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that, that's really nice to hear.

Vicki Weinberg:

And have you got any, um, advice on how to make it work?

Vicki Weinberg:

Is there anything that you and Evie do, you think, that

Vicki Weinberg:

means it, it works so well.

Simon Fineman:

Yeah.

Simon Fineman:

Uh, the best bit of advice is to, uh, to remember that she's cleverer than me, and

Simon Fineman:

therefore, never ignore what she says.

Simon Fineman:

It doesn't mean, uh, it doesn't mean I have to agree with everything she says,

Simon Fineman:

uh, but what I'm really saying is you have to respect one another's views.

Simon Fineman:

You have to listen carefully to what's being said.

Simon Fineman:

Never get defensive.

Simon Fineman:

Remember that you're, you're both trying to do the same thing, which is push the

Simon Fineman:

business forward and open your ears and really listen to what's being said to

Simon Fineman:

you because so often it opens your eyes to things that you hadn't thought of.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's really great advice.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you.

Vicki Weinberg:

Has Evie been in earshot, by the way?

Vicki Weinberg:

I bet she would've liked to hear that.

Simon Fineman:

Oh no, no.

Simon Fineman:

She's in a different room.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, well she'll hear.

Vicki Weinberg:

She'll hear it.

Vicki Weinberg:

Hopefully she'll hear it when it comes out.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that would be nice.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, well thank you so much Simon.

Vicki Weinberg:

And my final question for you is what would your number one piece of advice

Vicki Weinberg:

be for other product businesses?

Simon Fineman:

Um, well, I, I, I think it's to stay focused.

Simon Fineman:

I think that, uh, we, we, um, we, it's so easy when you read about business

Simon Fineman:

and you hear about, you only hear about mega successful businesses to

Simon Fineman:

think that, oh, it's easy, you know?

Simon Fineman:

And therefore when you start a business and you realize after the first few

Simon Fineman:

months that, hey it's not as easy as I thought it was going to be.

Simon Fineman:

That can be very demoralizing.

Simon Fineman:

And I, I say that not just from Haskapa, but you know, when I ran

Simon Fineman:

the big bus timber business, we were forever starting new initiatives.

Simon Fineman:

And the important thing is if you believe in it, you've got to keep going.

Simon Fineman:

You've got to keep going.

Simon Fineman:

Don't worry too much about profit and loss.

Simon Fineman:

Only worry about cash because profit and loss never really directly

Simon Fineman:

ruined the business, but if you run out of cash, you've got a problem.

Simon Fineman:

So you've got to look after your cash and just stay focused and stay with

Simon Fineman:

it, because eventually it'll come good.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you.

Vicki Weinberg:

I think that's great advice.

Vicki Weinberg:

And actually part of the reason for this podcast is so that people can hear

Vicki Weinberg:

other business stories and experiences and realize that everyone has their

Vicki Weinberg:

setbacks, their, you know, their, their problems along the way somewhere.

Vicki Weinberg:

Because I think you're right, when you look on social media particularly,

Vicki Weinberg:

sometimes you get quite a rosy picture, but that's not the reality.

Vicki Weinberg:

That might be the last couple of months, but it doesn't tell you the

Vicki Weinberg:

five years that company took to get there and, and what that involved.

Simon Fineman:

Yeah, absolutely.

Simon Fineman:

I, I, I, you know, it's a real problem, isn't it?

Simon Fineman:

And, um, and getting, and, and of course nobody wants to talk about

Simon Fineman:

the struggle while it's happening because that's admitting that it's,

Simon Fineman:

it, it, it's not going so well.

Simon Fineman:

So you just don't hear that news.

Simon Fineman:

But believe me, just like you said, most businesses, they go

Simon Fineman:

through years of struggle before it starts to click into place.

Simon Fineman:

And certainly with Haskapa, it's um, if it's clicking into place, it's

Simon Fineman:

only about now, it's really still, um, uh, in its infancy in that respect.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you.

Vicki Weinberg:

So thank you so much for all that you shared, um, and for being so open

Vicki Weinberg:

and for these reassuring as well.

Vicki Weinberg:

I think, I really hope that this episode will really reassure people, particularly

Vicki Weinberg:

those early on, um, and that they will learn from all of your experience.

Vicki Weinberg:

So thank you.

Simon Fineman:

Oh, well thank you for having me.

Simon Fineman:

I enjoyed, um, it sharing my experiences.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, good.

Vicki Weinberg:

I'm pleased.

Simon Fineman:

Okay.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you so much for listening right

Vicki Weinberg:

to the end of this episode.

Vicki Weinberg:

Do remember that you can get the full back catalogues and lots of free resources

Vicki Weinberg:

on my website, vicki weinberg.com.

Vicki Weinberg:

Please do remember to rate and review view this episode if you've enjoyed

Vicki Weinberg:

it, and also share it with a friend who you think might find it useful.