The saying goes “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and to an entrepreneur from Lewisham, unloved apple orchard rejects were an inspiration.
Giuseppe Baidoo had never set out to run his own business – “I never had an entrepreneur mindset,” he said – but two years after the official launch of sustainable food firm Gusto Snacks, based in Muirkirk Road, Catford, he and his business partner are filling the shelves at Selfridges.
He was studying industrial and product design at the University of East London when the idea of a sustainable food business took hold.
He came up with the idea for a fruit-based drink using apples which supermarkets would reject – “wonky fruit” – and pitched it during a session with industry insiders.
“That is when I met an entrepreneur who told me: ‘This is something you can do’.”
The fruit drink idea he launched in 2016 – Ooze Drinks – never took off, so he moved from drinks to snacks – with the same idea, taking wonky potatoes and turning them into crisps.
The final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when he linked up with business partner Claudio Owusu, and Gusto Snacks was finally born.
They both originated from Italy, Giuseppe moving to the UK in 2012, and Claudio a year later. Their paths had crossed when they worked at a Tesco warehouse together.
Claudio said: “It took us two years to develop the product. I was pitching to the likes of Tesco, Asda, Planet Organic, Ocado to get feedback.
“We would have to go to these trade shows without a finished product. We would have the crisps on the stand, in brown packaging, and an image of what the finished product would look like.
“Meanwhile, Giuseppe was spending time finding a manufacturer, finding out how to move the product from A to B, all the regulations.
“Luckily we found a manufacturer who works from source and sends us the finished product, which really helps us to focus on growing the business.”
They launched in December 2020 – right in the teeth of the pandemic.
They had 10,000 units to sell. They topped that figure and went further, selling 11,000, by moving into a second production run.
Their next target was to win over a big brand name “to give us credibility”.
Claudio said: “It took us almost a year to get into Selfridges, knocking on the door, sending them multiple emails.”
Gusto told Selfridges it had two flavours. Selfridges said come back when you have four. So they did.
They then turned their lack of advertising money on its head and went out on to the streets brandishing cheap cardboard signs with slogans such as “Our marketing budget is as low as our calories – buy our snacks so we can do better.”
They took pictures and posted them on social media. The campaign went viral.
Gusto Snacks is looking to sell 50,000 units this year, but Claudio and Giuseppe have capacity to produce one million.
That’s their aim now, seeking out high impact investors to move them and their wonky fruit up to the top of the tree.
Pictured top: Founders of Gusto Snacks Claudio Owusu, left, and Giuseppe Baidoo, right (Picture: University of East London)
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