A Warwickshire mum turned entrepreneur is looking to revolutionize the confectionery market after launching a new hard candy product. Louise Carr-Smith is the brains behind ‘Cleverpop’, a sugar-free range of healthy lollipops. This is promising to take the high-street by storm in 2013 as parents and consumers demand healthy alternatives to traditional mass produced rivals.
Supported by the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), the food scientist and former Unilever professional has taken four years to come up with the right recipe, develop the supply chain and create the brand. After initial success with school fairs and a host of independent shops in the West Midlands, she is now setting her sights on blue chip retailers with a major retail name set to introduce the lollipops to their shelves.
“It has taken patient work to get to this point, but I do feel like I’m now on the verge of something really exciting that has the potential to steer the confectionery sector in a completely new direction,” explained Louise, who launched the business ‘Clever Sweets’ in May 2011. Cleverpop’ is simply a great tasting hard candy lollipop, with the added innovation that it is completely sugar and sweetener free – an industry first.”
She continued: “Using a unique mixture of fruit, vegetables and vitamins I have come up with a healthy alternative to promote wellbeing that doesn’t harm teeth. The first launch provides 100% RDA of Vitamin C. The market research I undertook proved that these are major selling points for parents keen to give their children treats that are good for them. We also worked hard on the brand development so they would appeal to teenagers and young adults, who are increasingly more discerning and looking for something different.”
Louise used all of her food industry knowledge and contacts to help with the development of the lollipops that currently come in three flavours – strawberry, cola and cherry – and retail at an introductory price of just 25p. Whilst the high street remains the main target, the entrepreneur has also invested in a new e-commerce site that offers the chance to buy ‘Cleverpop’ in packs of ten and fifty.
The online shop (www.cleversweets.com) is also expected to attract early overseas interest with consumers from Germany, Spain and Scandinavia. “There is massive potential for the business and, if things go well this year and we break into the high street, I would expect to sell in the region of 480,000 lollipops,” continued Louise.
“This would generate about £300,000 in revenue and help create three jobs to support me with fulfillment, marketing and, importantly social media – the latter is going to be essential in establishing the brand and reaching untapped markets.”
The Warwickshire entrepreneur has received extensive support from MAS in the last two years, with ongoing mentoring, supply chain development, financial support to help with design and a patent sweep to validate the idea. More recently, the manufacturing support body has joined forces with UKTI to pursue international opportunities for ‘Cleverpop’
“I have no doubt in my mind that MAS has helped me get to this stage a lot quicker than if I was doing it on my own.” Louise added: “The expertise the Advisors bring to the table continues to be a major benefit and the fact I can bounce ideas off them and just pick up the phone when I need to is great. Being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely place without this mentoring.”
Alison Phillips, Manufacturing Advisor at MAS, concluded: “Clever Sweets is an excellent business that will undoubtedly change the way consumers view lollipops. “It gives them the best of both worlds…a great taste and lots of healthy benefits. Louise was technically very advanced so our support was more a case of assisting in areas where she wasn’t so strong and in linking her up with people who could turn the idea into reality.
“Like all good businesses, there are already plans in place to expand the range and importantly add new vitamins into the lollipops.” MAS, which is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), works for manufacturers and through experienced advisors can help shape strategy, create new products, reduce waste and review supply chains.
Companies can take advantage of a free review that identifies key priority areas and funding is available for improvement projects focused on strategy, increasing efficiency, developing new products, strengthening supply chains and growth.