“I often liken them to bath bombs, only they’ll add a spark to your smoothie, not your bath,” smiles Melbourne-based nutritionist Cinzia Cozzolino, whose Smoothie Bombs have rolled out to cafes and kitchen cabinets across the country. Made from a combination of nutrient rich ingredients like nuts and seeds, superfood powders and dietary fibre, the result of watching her two daughters schlepping to school on empty stomachs was her brill business idea.
Although using Cinzia’s product makes beverage making, erm, smooth, the work behind the scenes was a little less so.
“I used to painstakingly mix all the ingredients, weigh out portions and then hand roll every single ball,” Cinzia of those first four years. “I finally found a manufacturer who believed in me and took on my product. A lot of factories won’t do small production runs as it’s not worth their while, so I was very lucky.”
After “tears of joy” welcomed her first non-hand-rolled ‘bomb’, it was all systems go. Here’s the low down on the hard yards behind her quick fix.
How did your home recipe become a business?
Seeing the success [of Smoothie Bombs] in our household, my friends who owned cafes asked me to have them on their menus to make it easier for their staff to prepare superfood smoothies. They became really popular and not long after, I decided to develop a retail concept.
What’s the best decision you’ve made so far?
To stick to my guns with the packaging I designed years ago. It’s a bit more expensive than other options but it makes my product unique. I am now also really happy with the decision to get the product made in a factory. I got pushed back from many manufacturers but eventually I found one who took it on, and I’ll never look back because it has allowed me to focus on getting the product in stores.
…And the worst?
I’m extremely passionate and excited about the business, anyone can see that. Earlier this year, before the launch of my full range, I made the mistake of revealing too many of my ideas and strategies to people that took advantage of it. I have learnt the value of NDAs [non-disclosure agreements], let me assure you.
You’ve successfully bucked the ‘holier than thou’ health food attitude…
In a time where so many people are on Instagram showing off their yoga poses and toned bodies, it’s really important to keep things real and say, ‘It’s ok if you aren’t perfect. Just making a few small changes will go a long way.’ Besides, no one is really perfect, we’re just trying to be honest about it and make it easier to be healthy.
What are some of the things you, in business, refuse to compromise on and why?
There are three key values that I am really passionate about and will maintain for as long as this business is running. One – the ingredients are of the highest nutritional quality. Organic and GMO-free is a must. Two – the product is plant based. Three – the ingredients are sourced ethically.
What challenges are you currently facing?
The process of getting [organic] certification was pretty long and expensive but has made a huge difference to our growth and development. It has really opened up huge sales channels that weren’t available to us before, like organic health food stores, [but] it also provides continuous challenges, particularly because sourcing organic ingredients is tricky and they aren’t always available.
In terms of expansion, where did you go for advice on how to price your product, what you should be offering as a supplier in terms of product/delivery or any other particulars that a new business may have never tackled before?
This is a great question and these are really important things to learn during the early stages of running a business. I actually did a small business course at RMIT a few years ago. I learned about the appropriate margins and pricing for different kinds of buyers. These prices must take into consideration business running costs, in addition to the product cost itself. There are lots of resources online, but it always helps to talk to someone with experience in your industry. In general, finding your price point in the retail marketplace is a challenge, especially when you have a unique product.
Any additional words of advice?
Health food trends change all the time and even if you are at the forefront of a trend, it might be totally over in six months. Come up with something unique and useful enough that it won’t just disappear. To do this right, you need to have authentic passion and motivation for what you are creating, it can’t just be about the money. You will also benefit in innumerable ways from making friends in the industry and supporting your fellow business owners.