Start-up: Having your cake and eating it

The start-up Mindful Bites does what it says on the tin. It makes food that is mindful of your health, your taste buds and the planet.

Mindful Bites was created in 2016 by Stephanie Peritore to make ‘clean’ and ‘happy’ food, and today has a range of traditional Italian -vegan- cakes and biscuits, as well as the most delicious vegan chocolate spread.

Despite being just 5 years in business, Mindful Bites is roaring ahead and tapping into the growing trend of vegan eating. Veganism is on the rise globally with allegedly 3.5% of the US population identifying as vegan (a 600% growth in the last 3 years alone), 3% in Italy, 2.1% in Canada and 1.2% in the UK ( Vegan cooking is currently one of the most trending topics on TikTok, with cooks like Tabitha Brown racking up about 4.7 million followers with her delicious vegan recipes.

Mindful Bites was spot on with its timing. The company started out almost by coincidence as the founder, a (then) banker and a chocolate spread lover, was searching for a healthy, delicious, palm-oil and chemical-free chocolate spread - and couldn’t find it. Anywhere.

Like many entrepreneurs, seeing a gap in the market, she decided to make it herself. Growing up in Sicily, Stephanie watched her grandmother make home-made chocolate spread for her and her cousins and thought that it should not be difficult to make something delicious and ‘clean’ herself with nothing in it but the real stuff. With a £100,000 initial investment, Stephanie stepped away from her high-flying finance career and founded Mindful Bites.

Starting out:

With the help of a family-owned food business in Northern Italy, Mindful Bites developed and produced 4 different, highly nutritious and ‘clean’ nut-butters presented in beautiful glass jars. It was not long after the launch of the product line, that Amazon-owned Whole Foods decided to stock it, and Mindful Bites’ nut spreads appeared on many a vegan’s radar, as well in the shopping trolleys of mums looking for healthy and delicious sandwich spreads for their children’s snacks. And the business took off.

After an initial boom in sales, the business slowed down in early 2019. There was more competition and the ‘being the best in class’ approach by Mindful Bites, - accepting no compromise on quality - meant the price for each jar of nut-spread was (too) high. However, the price could not be brought down without compromising on quality, and hence difficult choices had to be made.

Decisions, decisions

As an entrepreneur, it is essential to understand your competitive position and act upon it. Stephanie took the courageous decision to almost completely pivot out of nut spreads – Mindful Bites’ only product at that time – into making vegan versions of much-loved Italian cakes, such as Panettone, as well as vegan biscotti. This was in fact like starting a new business again (with endless taste tests to boot).

But the gamble took off and in autumn 2019, besides setting up Mindful Bites’ own Shopify managed online shop, the new products were listed on Amazon, M&S and Whole Foods, propelling the business to new levels.

Being (very) hands on

One thing that Jeff Bezos, of Amazon fame, always mentions is that in Amazon’s early days of selling books only, he packed and sent all the books himself. Stephanie did the same thing when she started selling cakes. She packed and labelled them and carried hundreds of boxes of cakes down from her 6th floor apartment every day to be picked up by the postman for months on end, until a proper fulfilment centre was found to handle this for her.

Advice for starters

Stephanie’s advice to aspiring young entrepreneurs?

You need to give it all your heart and soul and that might not always be enough… Starting a business is a journey which requires a lot of mental strength. Believe in yourself. Don’t give up. Go and do.”

Check out Mindful Bites’ website and blog for the most wonderful vegan cakes, biscuits, puddings and ice-cream recipes. Happy, Mindful, Eating!

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