Start-Up Stories – SAVEG
Plant based alternatives are cropping up everywhere, from Top 4 Grocers to niche corner shops. But now pies are getting their time to shine! SAVEG are at the forefront of the plant based movement, bringing out vibrant and delicious pies that step up the game. See what Co-Founder, Maria Marling, had to say about starting up a business, raising money and more…
What’s SAVEG all about?
We are SAVEG, plant-based pies. The business is owned by myself and my partner Marysia Thompson.We are on a mission to take the humble vegetable and make it the best it can be. For us, that’s crammed into a pie, packed with bold, adventurous flavours, and wrapped up in our SAVEG pastry. We currently have four flavours:
- Hoisin Jack Pie – Pulled Jackfruit in Hoisin Sauce
- My Thai Pie- Thai Green Curry Pie
- Goan Then Pie – Goan Curry Pie
- Leeky Shroom Pie- Leek and Mushroom Pie
We are proud to be 100% plant based, meaning no mock meat! Our brand is 100% sustainable – compostable packaging and 0% waste to landfill.
Where did the idea come from?
Marysia is 100% Vegan but I always struggled. Being brought up on a meat and two veg mind set is incredibly difficult to get out of. The struggle is that
“I want to eat vegan but there is a lack of full flavoured, comfort, convenience vegan food – The answer… Pies!”
We started making them in our home kitchen in Cardiff and sold them at farmers markets which validated that we had a fantastic product that people needed.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We did our research to validate that there was an opportunity in pies. As of Jan 2020, 600,000 Brits are now following a vegan diet. This is driven by millennials and Gen Z. As of 2018, the pie market was valued at £1.2bn. This new generation of pie eaters aren’t looking for steak and kidney pies, but instead, new bold, innovative flavours.
What were you doing before starting up?
Before SAVEG, myself and Marysia had a protein ball company called PHIT which we learnt a lot from. Before that, I worked for Red Bull in the On Trade and Marysia worked in field sales for brands such as Evian and Red Bull in the Off Trade.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
We have always been entrepreneurial – Myself making money from the age of 10, washing cars and carol singing door to door with my guitar. Marysia’s father is a successful businessman and always inspired her to start her own business.
How did you raise the money?
Through an article we had published, we met three Welsh angel investors with 30 years each of food manufacturing experience. They invested £200,000 in us to start the business and have been incremental its set up.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Making the pies in our home kitchen to making them in a factory was more challenging that we initially thought. Particularly the pie shape – at home we were using tins from a bakeware shop and hand moulding them. These tins could not fit into our pastry machine, so we had to get tins specially made which took over 3 months. This is not time you want to waste from a cash flow perspective.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Selling into Suma Wholefoods. This has really validated our branding and product.
How difficult is it to create a product in the UK Market at the minute?
We researched the market intensely and created a product to fill a gap. Gen Z and Millennials aren’t looking for steak and kidney pies, they are looking for plant-based food with bold and adventurous flavours made by a brand that shares the same sustainability values as them with instagramable branding. The difference between now and the last 20 years is that raising funding via grants loan capital is virtually impossible without a turnover of 100k minimum. Government bodies and banks aren’t willing to take risks as much as they used to without a large equity stake or high interest rates. We researched the market extensively, identified the opportunity and started making pies in our home kitchen in Cardiff. We were selling them at farmers markets across south wales which really validated our offering and proved there was an appetite (excuse the pun) for plant-based pies with bold, adventurous flavours such as Thai Green Curry Pie and Hoisin Jackfruit Pies. From here we worked with branding agency Springetts who helped us create our brand including design, proposition and positioning. With them we identified our brand soul as a Roast Potato – Let me explain… Our mission is to make the humble vegetable the best it can be. If you think of a potato, for some people the best version of a potato would be the perfect crispy on the outside yet fluffy on the inside Roast Potato. We are the experts in veg, combine them with bold flavours and cram them into a pie all wrapped in our unique SAVEG pastry.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
SPEAK TO EVERYONE! SHOUT ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING! The daughter of your 84-year-old next door neighbour could be the head buyer for a leading supermarket.
“Every conversation is an opportunity!”
The daughter of your 84-year-old next door neighbour could be the head buyer for a leading supermarket. Every conversation is an opportunity!
What skills does someone need to thrive in a start-up environment?
- Willingness to learn.
- Tenacity to aggressively hunt for sales.
- Self awareness so that you are constantly looking at yourself and striving to be better in both your professional and personal life.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
To have expanded our range by offering more plant-based products and to be a leader in plant-based food innovation. Also, give us a follow on Instagram @saveggirls @saveg_uk