Parents in business: Marieke of Snackzilla

Marieke Syed, 40, is the founder of SNACKZILLA, a brand new kids healthier snack brand, aimed at primary school aged kids, perfect for lunchboxes and snacking on-the-go. She says, “We recently launched with a range of soft-baked oat cookies, based on my Granny’s recipe but re-formulated to meet the government’s healthier foods standards for kids, with 50% less sugar than the average sweet biscuit, 99 cals, packed full of fibre, and nothing artificial.” As a mum of 2 boys, aged 10 and 8 years old, Marieke is ideally placed to know what kids like. Read on to find out how her business has grown.

Before launching SNACKZILLA I was the COO of London Craft Week, a festival showcasing the best in luxury and craftsmanship from around the world. I had learnt so much about starting and running a company in that role, and I wanted to combine that with my passions for baking, branding and kids. Making the transition was tricky, as it meant giving up a full-time paid job for an unpaid job with very little security and high risk! But thankfully my family were very supportive and encouraged me to take the plunge.

I had the idea in 2018, and it took 3 years to get the product to market, with a lot of research, development and re-formulations. I took my recipe to a food developer, who worked with me to adapt it to make it healthier. I then raised some money, to start work on branding and packaging design.

The brand and product are both definitely filling a gap in the market for healthier sweet snacks aimed at older children and the feedback from kids and parents has been amazing. It feels like a brilliant achievement to have created a product that is making an impact on kids and families lives.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing: at one point I missed a typo of a decimal point being in the wrong place on packaging (which meant having to bin it all and re-print). Every day is a learning opportunity though, and I try not to beat myself up and take each mistake as a chance to understand what I could have done differently for next time.

? Now my children are a bit older it has become easier to juggle work around them. My husband works from home, so we share the school runs and clubs. I tend to work until 3pm, and then pick it up again between 6-8pm. Thankfully the kids are very interested in the business, they have been a big part of it, coming up with the name, helping with the branding, taste testing, packing up orders etc, so they are happy to get stuck in.

I think you need to have a goal for your business, whether that is financial or otherwise, something to be working for to keep motivated especially when things go wrong.

The food industry is tricky, especially for small challenger brands like mine, as we are up against massive corporations who have far bigger budgets and power. It’s been brilliant though getting a recent trial in Sainsbury’s supermarkets, but I don’t think I’ll have my ‘I’ve made it moment’ until we are in all the big supermarkets!

In 5 years time I hope to have grown SNACKZILLA into a global brand, becoming the leading brand for older kids in the healthier snacking space. And perhaps finally then I’ll get to relax, and maybe even take a holiday!

You can find SNACKZILLA in selected Sainsbury’s stores nation-wide or online at: https://www.snackzilla.co.uk/

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