Time to introduce you to another one of our amazing independent food companies - 5th Season. We spoke to one of the co-founders, Stuart, who revealed how the company started, top tips for those starting a new food and drink business and much more.
Name: 5th Season
Date of Launch: 2019
What do you sell?
Totally delicious, 100% freeze-dried fruit snacks. The range currently consists of Whole Strawberries, Pineapple Chunks and a Fruit Salad mix.
We LOVE fruit, but realise that sometimes life get in the way of you eating it. 5th Season is the only true alternative to fresh fruit, in a dried format that's easy to grab on the go - no preparation, no refrigeration and no mess. "IT'S FRUIT WITHOUT THE FUSS!"
Unlike other fruit snacks we don't add anything else to our fruit, so it's naturally delicious and always perfectly ripe! Each pack is portion controlled to be 1 of your 5-a-day, containing the equivalent of 80g of fresh fruit. All our packs are less than 50 calories, rich in vitamin C, high in fibre and is vegan and gluten-free.
How did you come up with the company name?
5th Season is a replacement for fresh fruit, but by freeze-drying the product, we lock in the nutrients and extend the shelf life. This means that you can enjoy the taste of delicious ripe fruit, any time of year, even when it’s not in season. We are preserving the best of the fruit seasons and in doing so have created the 5th Season.
Can you tell us about the backstory to how your company started?
5th Season was co-founded by myself (Stuart) and Tiffany. We have worked in some of the unhealthiest food categories and had a mission to get people to eat more fruit. We originally met skiing where we got into a conversation about how difficult it is to consume 5 portions of fruit and veg every day when you’re busy and working full time. After an initial review of the market it was clear that very few fruit snacks are genuinely healthy or actually look like fruit. This was 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. We therefore set about creating our own fruit snacks and landed on freeze-drying as this method is scientifically proven to be nutritional superior to anything else.
We also wanted to make sure that the brand does further good in the world so partnered with Farm Africa so that for every pack sold, money is donated to support their sustainable farming initiatives.
What makes you stand out from competitors?
5th Season is differentiated in the market through the modern freeze-drying process we use. This allows us to preserve the fruit, without having to add anything back – no added sugar, preservatives, fat or additives. It’s just 100% fruit!
The processing also takes place at a low temperature and therefore 5th Season retains its original fruit shape. Our whole strawberries are still whole strawberries, just completely dry throughout, giving a crispy texture that’s perfect for snacking.
The low processing temperature also means that the flavour of the fruit doesn’t change and people are always surprised that our snacks actually taste of fresh, ripe fruit. However, most importantly, freeze-dried fruit retains far more nutrients that any other drying method (over 90% to be exact). This means that you can snack on 5th Season and know that you are eating something that’s just as good for you as fresh fruit.
What is your proudest moment so far?
For me personally, it was when we launched in Sainsbury’s. I have developed products in the past for some huge brands that are sold in supermarkets worldwide. However, seeing 5th Season on the Sainsbury’s shelf for the first time was so overwhelming.
I am incredible proud of what the team of just 3 have achieved. The UK market is highly competitive, and we, as a small start-up company are out there challenging the big players. We are able to deliver a product and service that allows us to supply major supermarkets. Being a co-founder, I have been involved in the whole process and I know the hard work and challenges that the team has faced and overcome to make this dream become a reality.
Another incredible moment was our first ever show back in 2019. It was the Free From and Allergy Show at London Olympia. We were so nervous as it was the first time we got live feedback from the public. The response however was amazing and even after restocking for the final show day we completely sold out – it turned out that we sold a pack of 5th Season every 22 seconds!
Any advice for anyone starting up their own food and drink company?
I could spend all day giving advice on the things I've learned launching 5th Season! What I would however say is that, you are not alone and there are amazing support groups out there for small business owners.
All advice however should be taken with a pinch of salt! People love to give you their opinion, but you know your business better than anyone else and gut feel will get you pretty far.
What’s your biggest challenge as an independent producer?
Time and focus. Running a small business can be overwhelming as there is so much to do. The key thing is to try and focus on the things that will actually drive the business forward. It's so difficult to do because sometimes we try to put off the big tasks that seem too scary to tackle.
Do you want to shout-out to any other independent producers you love?
There are so many small brands that I love. The start up community is really friendly where I speak to many of these brands frequently. It’s a lovely environment to work in because larger brands are always helping me out and in turn I try and help smaller brands than us wherever I can. Special shout outs however would have to go to:
Canassa – A Premium Botanical CBD Drink. They won the Future Brand Innovation Award last year at Food Matters Live.
FitBakes – Ella who is one of the business founders is the queen of DTC and is always helping other brands out. They produce low calorie, high protein cakes.
HomeSpun – Erica is the founder and has become my personal sounding board. HomeSpun are a premium quinoa crunch brand based in Ireland.
Banana Scoops – A plant based ice cream made from bananas. They have managed to secure some key listing in Planet Organic and Ocado and I’m really rooting for them. I have a feeling they are going to be the next I brand.
What are your plans/hopes/dreams for the future?
Our focus is building our brand awareness and distribution across the UK and The Netherlands. Our dream is to become a household name and in doing so I will go to bed every night knowing that people are one step closer to achieving their 5-a-day.
Thank you so much to Stuart for speaking to us about 5th Season's amazing story and aspirations for the future. You can find the range of 5th Season products on our website here.