The most successful businesses, sports teams and organisations always try to improve from a position of strength.
That’s the case with unique small business Healthy Nibbles, the UK’s first healthy snacks vending company founded by Sara Roberts in Edinburgh in 2013 which began trading two years later.
Healthy Nibbles has had a meteoric rise, BCorp certified with positive growth in the last two years, it has now won a coveted Queen’s Award for sustainable development. Yet Sara is putting herself through the rigours of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 small businesses programme in a quest to see how she can further improve her business’s performance.
Sara said: “It’s like going through the start-up process again questioning why you’re doing what you’re doing, what’s working or not. Especially after all the global changes, it’s a really timely opportunity to review in order to move forward and it’s helped me develop a new five-year strategy for Healthy Nibbles.”
Healthy Nibbles grew out of frustration. Sara was at her father’s hospital bedside and hungry in the wee small hours of the morning, the only food she could find was in a vending machine serving “the usual suspects”. Right next to the machine a poster warned ‘diabetes and obesity kill’.
She said: “It was the juxtaposition of this that hit me and I just though there must be a better way. At the same time my job took me to many different workplaces and I observed how companies on the one hand expect great performance from their employees but on the other are quite happy for them to work on Danish pasties and coffee.
“You are never going to get the best out of people when the access to the best food and drink is so limited and so I founded Healthy Nibbles with impact and innovation in mind.”
Sara’s zeal in being an agent of change was not going to be diluted by the pandemic either: “We were agile and responsive to the situation from the very first week and it caused the business to evolve,” she said.
“Our vending dried up overnight, but we worked with corporates and businesses to support employee wellbeing, so we really strengthened our snack box side to help global companies send gifts to their employees worldwide.
“Pre-pandemic we did a handful of countries; post-pandemic that has risen to more than 35 and our curated wholesale business grew by 1000 percent in 2021.”
Sara, who is also an Ambassador to Women’s Enterprise Scotland, CEO Ambassador to B-Corp and Ambassador to Positive and Nourishment Board Advisor to the International WELL Building Institute, says that the business has been “bootstrapped” so far and it has risen under the radar. That’s about to change as she enters the final stages of an investment round which will allow her to increase Healthy Nibbles’ marketing approach.
Sara sees Healthy Nibbles’ future in three key areas: autonomous retail – vending machines and self-serve cafés in workplaces; corporate gifting and snack boxes: and developing an MVP to create an analytics and insights service.
She said: “Pre-Covid we secured a trial with Transport for London and it’s an opportunity, given that we are a B2B company but are trying to change consumers’ purchasing habits around healthy food and make it more accessible to them. We have four vending machines at the moment with another 100 coming over the next year, which will bring us a footfall of around 2.5 billion passengers a year.
“The insights we are gathering around that will be cross-referenced with how individuals behave in the workplace. So our analytics platform will provide that consumer data and insight into media agencies, food production companies and investment houses. It’s an exciting time.”
The Queen’s Award will also boost the company’s profile, Sara admitted: “We have established ourselves as leaders within our sector in our approach to sustainability and were the first in our industry to be certified with BCorp certification. It’s awesome to be recognised with a Queen’s Award and I see it as part of creating strong foundations for high growth which we are beginning to see now.”
For a small, young company, Healthy Nibbles demonstrates a wide, innovative and exemplary set of initiatives with impressive results which would be a major achievement for a company much larger.