"We now have six products which were able to launch at the Free From and Allergy Show. We have a further 3 we are launching in October. Selling locally is great because you get great word of mouth."
Women in the Food Industry first met Sonia Mason Founder of Slightly Different Foods who have the largest range of FODMAP Friendly accredited sauces developed and manufactured in the UK at the huge Allergy and Free From Show at Olympia in London. Co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, chatted with Sonia to discover what FODMAP is, how Small Business Sunday has helped her and how to scale up from home kitchen to wider distribution.
In 2014 Sonia was diagnosed with IBS and started researching the area as she couldn’t find anything in supermarkets, that I could get on with to help with her symptoms. She said "I discovered FODMAP and found there was a niche in the market for it in the UK. Food for IBS first started in Monash University in Australia. I started with sausages first of all and found an award winning butcher to make my own recipe sausages for me which were gluten-free although not certified low FODMAP at the time. I’d also started to prototype make a number of jams and a bolognese sauce and came out in 2017 with two Free From awards – Bronze for best start up product and Silver for best meat and ready meal".
After winning the awards she was working so many hours, and despite getting a great response for her products, she couldn’t keep all the business plates spinning. so she decided to stop trading as a sole trader.
In May 2018 with the support of Simon Fox (her then partner and now husband) they set up Slightly Different Foods Limited. Simon has 25 years experience in the wealth management industry advising individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses. Having run his own business and also being a private investor in start up businesses he manages their business leaving Sonina with the time to develop new products.
They launched their first two products a few months ago and now have six products which were able to launch at the Free From and Allergy Show. They have a further 3 that they are launching in October.
When asked what has led to FODMAP being more recognised or talked about, Sonia said: "IBS is not a subject that people really did want to talk about a lot. It’s not just your bowels that get turned upside down with IBS – nausea, sickness, headaches. But it is now becoming more recognised as a major problem and over 12 million people in the UK alone have IBS. There are a few apps that you can download to find out what foods can help or make your symptoms worse. But it is all very complex and in the fast paced world we live in many people don’t have time to do so much research & elimination diets. So it’s comforting to know that my products have all been tested and are certified as safe to eat on a FODMAP diet".
She got a great boost to her business through a discovery on Twitter: "We discovered that Theo Paphitis who used to be a regular Dragons Den & is making a return – has a weekly Twitter competition called SBS – Small Business Sunday where if you tweet him @TheoPaphitis and describe your businesses in one tweet including the all-important hashtag #SBS between 5.00 PM and 7.30 PM he chooses his six favourites every Monday night which he retweets to his half a million followers! We were lucky enough to be a winner one week and through this one of our new stockists first heard of us (who also came to visit us at the Allergy Show). Theo also helps out with advice of how to make the most of your win through local papers and we got a lot of local publicity through this too".
You can read the full interview with Sonia on Women in the Food Industry's website here.