How Family Secret survived the pandemic with the launch of Proppadoms | Reports
Imagine buying a literal ton of mini poppadoms to supply customers – then a pandemic strikes.
This is the situation that Family Secret co-founder Sunny Mudhar found himself in last March when Covid forced its airline and rail customers to temporarily cease operations.
Mudhar turned the potential disaster into an opportunity by using poppadoms to create a bagged snack brand that is now winning lists in the UK and overseas.
It is a company far removed from the origins of Family Secret as a supplier of culinary sauces. And the cooking sauces themselves are a long way from Mudhar’s initial career in the sale of pharmaceutical and medical equipment.
Food is her passion – even if that doesn’t extend to cooking. In fact, he is “horrible,” he admits. “That’s why I have a culinary sauces business. “
The inspiration for the sauces was a globetrotting honeymoon about five years ago. “You end up meeting people, making friends, and being invited to dinner parties and beach parties,” he explains. “People would cook these amazing dishes and say their grandmother’s recipe was passed down.”
It was the idea of a “family secret” recipe that prompted Mudhar and his wife Harmeet to launch a range of seven sauces low in fat, salt and sugar and without preservatives or artificial colors.
Initially selling at farmer’s markets and food fairs, demand quickly outstripped the couple’s own production facilities.
After nine months of searching for the right production partner, Mudhar found a small family business that produces its own broths and sauces. “They weren’t subcontractors to another brand, but I convinced them to help expand our recipes,” he says.
“I didn’t want to go to a big production company. It just wasn’t our reason for being. But they have set themselves up to produce larger quantities if we need them. “
About three years ago, Mudhar and Harmeet gave up their jobs to devote themselves full time to Family Secret.
“My wife’s experience was managing creative and digital resources. She’s worked with some of the biggest brands on their digital campaigns and their digital presence, ”he says. “Her skills were transferable to our business and most of the branding was led by her.”
As the lists grew, initially with Midcounties Co-Operative and later with wholesalers such as Cotswold Fayre and Springvale Foods, Family Secret expanded with a line of snack boxes inspired by restaurant entrees. These included poppadoms and dips, Chinese crackers and dips, Thai crackers and dips, and rosemary crackers and dips.
“These were quite unique, and we mainly targeted travel because we thought it would be a fantastic travel product,” says Mudhar.
Buyers agreed and were particularly interested in the poppadom box, which was listed by Virgin Trains (now Avanti) and London North Eastern Railway. Then came a big deal: an order for the poppadom box from British airline Jet2.
“The train deals as well as the airline deal were for sales north of £ 1.2million, so we thought that would really put us on the map in terms of business.”
Mudhar ordered a ton of mini poppadoms from India for the boxes. While the majority of Family Secret’s ingredients come from the UK, the company buys authentic Indian mini poppadoms that are sun-dried before being shipped to the UK for deep-frying.
The snack boxes were due to launch in March / April 2020, just as Covid hit the UK. The box market practically disappeared overnight. “I remember sitting there thinking, ‘What am I going to do?
What he did was visit the little chip factory that fry the mini poppadoms and asked if it was possible to season the poppadoms the way the chips are flavored.
After experimenting with different flavors, the bagged snack brand Proppadoms was born. Like the cooking sauces, the variations are inspired by world cuisine. They include jalapeño, duck and plum, and turmeric, chili, and ginger.
Shortly after the launch of Proppadoms, Mudhar launched Dragon’s Den on television. He walked away with no investment, which he says would not have been the case if the brand had already secured the listings it got later.
The brand is now listed with wholesalers and entered WH Smith at 50 airports in 10 countries. Proppadoms has also recently started selling online through Holland & Barrett with a view to entering stores in the coming months. Discussions are underway with supermarkets and tour operators.
Family Secret also sells its sauces and Proppadoms direct to consumers through its own site and Amazon, which Mudhar says works very well for the brand.
“What I’m hearing is that, since the pandemic, people are looking for new things, which are not available in all retailers,” he adds. “They want small challenger brands that offer quality. “
This is the type of product the company intends to continue to develop, starting with a box of health-focused snacks after securing a £ 25,000 grant from the government’s Innovate Fund.
“The goal is for these to provide you with the vitamins and nutrients you need throughout the day,” says Mudhar.
Plus, having a diverse product line will help protect your business if new pandemics disrupt its sales channels, he adds. “We have seen our snack business virtually wiped out by the pandemic, while our sauces business has grown by 100%. “
After a successful crowdfunding campaign last September, the company will soon be looking to raise funds again to support a major marketing campaign. “We know we have great products, but not enough people know it,” says Mudhar. “We want to become a national and popular brand. “