The team behind Hop protein bars shared how they have developed their business and plans to change the way consumers gain protein from alternative sources.
HOP website: https://www.hopbar.co.uk/
HOP was formed by 3 University of Surrey students to help individuals to take control of their long-term health and wellbeing through the foods they eat. HOP uses the alternative protein source of crickets to create a nutrient rich bar which delivers benefits to people and the planet. The team completed courses in MSc International Business Management (Matt), BSc Accounting and Financial Management (Ash) and PhD Mechanical Engineering Geoff, which has given the company a rounded approach in setting up and running the business. Geoff took some time to outline the business journey of HOP.
The team came together 2 years ago with a shared interest in nutrition, exercise (gym and racket sports) and how a protein rich diet can improve health and all round performance ‘we started to talk about alternative foods as protein sources to maximise health benefits but also the impact that traditional sources of protein like meat can have on the environment’. The team settled on exploring the growing interest in insect protein which can provide higher levels of protein. In addition with good education and understanding this new option can encourage consumers to eat a wider diet whilst exploring new options and supporting the long term future for the environment and sustainable foods.
HOP was set up in 2018 ‘we were able to develop the idea and received mentor support from Howard and Nigel in the Student Enterprise team. We also applied for and won some funding in the form of a BESSS award (Business Enterprise Student Support Scheme) along with a SetSquared Researcher to Innovator opportunity to hone our skills in developing the businesses’. The team have kept at the forefront of their minds that Hop is a people focussed company with the planet in mind. Each Hop Bar made saves 22 litres of water which the team have made a key part of their message – donating some of their profits to Water Aid for each bar sold.
During the research phase, the first bars were made in November 2017 and tested by some rock climbers who rely on good protein sources to increase their climbing ability. During this time, the team also created a brand, website and literature to promote HOP. The business has continued to develop whilst Geoff and the team have finished their studies and begun new jobs ‘we are working with a farm in Devon to source crickets. Currently, we source crickets from Asia and the bars are made in Europe but we really want to source and make the product in the UK’. In the long term, growing the business is the key aim for the team ‘we want this to be a long term business so making HOP bigger and sustainable to employ staff and to have premises would be the goal. We’d also like to develop a wider range of food products and educate consumers on alternative sources of protein from insects’.
As a team developing a business Matt, Ash and Geoff have been able to support each other but what have they learnt about being entrepreneurs whilst developing HOP ‘ be prepared and plan for the unexpected, various contacts can help you to find solutions even if it does not seem obvious at first. Being able to pitch well and deal with questions, especially around a protein source that is very new to the UK has helped us to refine our message. Collaboration has also been key for us to run the business and to link up with others’.
Running a business can be a challenges so Geoff shares his top tips on making it happen ‘ you will end up working long hours but make sure you balance that with taking breaks to avoid burning out. Make good use of any resources available as it could make a real difference to finding solutions to any issues you encounter. The feeling of building something from scratch is a great, especially when it could make a major difference to people and the planet’.
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