Theadora Alexander is the co-founder of Young Foodies.
Launched in May 2017, Young Foodies has grown rapidly to become the largest community of the UK’s fastest growing FMCG brands, providing members with expert knowledge, grassroots experience and first class industry resource to level the playing field for ambitious challenger brands. Under the leadership of co-founders, Theadora Alexander and Chris Green, the network now boasts a community of 250 thriving SMEs businesses where brand owners are expertly nurtured to boost growth and performance, solving everyday challenges, such as outsourced logistics, talent acquisition, learning and development, funding, and much more.
Young Foodies recognises that challenger brands drive 59% of growth in the market and now more than ever they face an exceptional opportunity to thrive because retailers are offering them twice their fair share of listings. However with more than 50% of founders in FMCG never having worked in the industry before, they identified the perfect platform to navigate them through the journey.
Within 12 months since launch, Young Foodies has have signed up 51 highly vetted brands in their paid-for community, representing over £100m revenue and average YoY growth of >70%. These include some of the most exciting brands, including Pip & Nut, Mallow & Marsh, Nutri-Brex, Up&Go, Plenish+, Little Moons, etc.
In addition to the core community of SMEs, they also have the following specialist business units: ‘YF Talent’ for recruitment, ‘YF Academy’ for training and upskilling existing staff, and ‘YF Solutions’ for back-office logistics and operations.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’m Theadora Alexander, co-founder of Young Foodies, which is the largest community of the UK’s fastest growing FMCG brands. We provide our ambitious food and drink member brands with expert knowledge, grassroots experience and first class industry resource to help make the everyday easier for them. Young Foodies was launched just 16 months ago and already has over 250 exciting brands on board, and the business is expanding rapidly to accommodate their needs.
Before launching Young Foodies, I worked in a very exciting foodie challenger where I quickly recognised the many obstacles young brands are faced with every day. As the operations and strategy director at Propercorn, I helped grow the business from 5 people to 50, and from just a couple of pallets of product to 3 million bags per month across 10 countries.
It was around that time that I met Chris Green who held an operational role at rival popcorn brand, Metcalfe’s. We had a shared vision for the Young Foodies concept so teamed up to launch the community we have today. We are both completely aligned on the vision for the business which is to give power to the innovators and set a fair and level playing field for them to thrive in.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Actually, yes, I do it all the time and it’s different every time. I grew up fixated on being a banker – every holiday from school or university was spent working towards that goal and then, when I got it, it wasn’t for me at all. Every three months I sit down and think about what I want from the next year of my life…it’s a really important process for me.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
The biggest challenge for me has been learning more about myself and accepting things I’m not good at. Running a business is incredibly exposing and that’s always hard – it’s why we’re such believers in supporting entrepreneurs to help make their journey less lonely. You can feel like you’re going crazy at times, that’s why I’m so lucky I have my co-founder Chris Green.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I’m a big believer in it. I seek mentorship in lots of people and couldn’t function if I didn’t have those people around me. In turn, I support a lot of foodies around me and thrive off being able to make an impact on them in one way or another.
What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?
More diversity of backgrounds within start-ups. People tend to look for people like themselves for “cultural fit” in personality, background, humour and even in the clothes they wear. I find that way of thinking incredibly dangerous so would love to see more different “types” of people in businesses.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
Smaller challenger brands are very progressive in terms of women in leadership and that makes me incredibly proud. This one’s a personal plea: please don’t call me ‘darling’ even if it’s meant in a totally endearing and friendly way. It takes the wind out of my sails in a meeting.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
The Young Foodies Christmas Party last year. We brought together 300 people from across the food and drink industry, all having a really great time connecting.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
We want to create a level playing field between challenger food and drink brands and the big businesses they’re up against. This comes with a million to-dos: change policy, inject scale, build best in class teams in the brands, and take logistical and operational challenges off their plates onto ours. We’re certain in our mission and know we’re making every effort possible to help make small brands mighty.