After turning vegan, Alice Shopland was struck by the lack of choice for vegan alternatives. So she started Angel Food, the only NZ manufacturer of dairy-free cheese alternatives. After only three years of manufacturing locally, business is booming.
Since founding Angel Food, Alice has extended her boutique food production (of vegan foods and dairy-free cheeses) into major retailers in New Zealand and Australia.
In New Zealand Angel Food’s products are available in all 64 Hell Pizza stores (as a vegan alternative to dairy-based cheese), 12 South Island New World stores and most recently Pak N Save in Westgate, Auckland. Alice’s Australian reach is as impressive, working with a Melbourne based distributor who distributes Angel Food’s products across all of Australia’s states.
Angel Food began by importing goods from the UK before moving on to manage production of food in New Zealand.
“With importing, we were hampered by very niche distribution, issues with continuity supply and high overheads,” says Alice.
So in 2012 she and her husband, Colin Woods, decided to solve the supply issues and high overheads.
“I decided that we would stop importing and focus on developing our own products for the local market and for export. It was a scary transition, seeing our product list contract, but it was definitely the right move – our product margins are now respectable and our growth is on track.”
Using contract manufacturers rather than its own facilities allows the company an increased cash flow, flexibility within production and keeps the cost passed onto the consumer as low as possible.
Angel Food is a small business with Alice and Colin owning 80 per cent of the company and the remaining 20 per cent being divided up between six other people. Cash flow, she says, is an issue but she’s recently completed an innovative crowd funding campaign.
The campaign offered shares and equity in return for donations, essentially functioning as a variant on an Initial Public Offering. Shares sold for $65 each with a goal target of raising $75,000. Within 30 days Angel Food was able to raise $151, 125 which will allow the company to continue with its expansion.
“Currently nobody else in NZ is manufacturing dairy free cheese alternatives and imported varieties are not widely available,” Alice says. “The market is catching up with us and we’re very aware there will soon be more direct competition – so we’ve got an ambitious product development programme and are working on several new sales channels.”
The expansion into Westgate Pak N Save is a significant step forward for Angel Food.
“In the six months after we started supplying New World stores in the South Island [New World South Island stores have stocked Angel Food since October 2014], our turnover doubled compared with the previous six months, so we’re expecting great things from Pak N Save!”
While it’s a big step in the right direction Alice is looking toward the future and further expansion.
“There’s no single ‘next step’ (I wish it was that simple!) but we’ll continue gradually pushing forward on various fronts – marketing, product development, new sales channels.”