We spoke to Gareth Lloyd, who explains how, along with his business partner Greg, they started White Lion Foods
What do you do at White Lion Foods and Truly Nuts?
I’m the Co-Founder and CEO of Truly Nuts and the Co-Founder and Chairman of White Lion Foods.
What was the inspiration behind the business?
The inspiration behind Truly Nuts can be traced back to our experiences during our frequent visits to Latin America. It was during these trips that my business partner, Greg, and I developed a profound interest in food exports. In 2012, we decided to embark on a new venture and founded White Lion Foods, a journey that began five years after the inception of Amoria, another successful business I had started.
Our fascination with Latin American cuisine, particularly in Peru, played a pivotal role in shaping our path. Peru boasts an incredible array of food products, with remarkable offerings like being the largest exporter of blueberries globally and the second-largest exporter of avocados. The diversity and quality of their food were truly eye-opening. While a typical UK supermarket might offer just a few varieties of potatoes, Peru boasts a staggering four thousand native potato types. The country’s chefs have earned international acclaim, and Peruvian-inspired restaurants have sprouted up in cities worldwide, with dishes like ceviche gaining well-deserved recognition.
Our journey into food exports began with Peruvian garlic from our Andean farms. This unique garlic, resembling small onions in size, thrives in volcanic soil and is nourished by glacial meltwaters, resulting in an exceptional product. Our travels in Peru opened our eyes to the rich food culture of the region, inspiring us to explore further.
As we ventured into the nut industry, we witnessed a surge in demand that led to the establishment of White Lion’s first brazil nut facility in the Amazon jungle. Initially geared towards the wholesale market, we soon diversified, creating Truly Nuts, the first consumer brand to own the entire journey of a Brazil nut, from the floor of the Amazon rainforest to the hands of the consumer.
Not only did we introduce delicious milk and dark chocolate varieties, we did what the experts said couldn’t be done and developed savoury flavors, a groundbreaking move in an industry that had never seen such innovation with brazil nuts. This innovation has become a unique selling point for our new Truly Nuts brand.
Looking ahead, our vision for Truly Nuts encompasses cereals, granolas, snack bars, and more. We aspire to build a US$100 million revenue business solely from nuts, with plans to expand to North America, Singapore, South Korea, and across the UK and Europe.
However, it’s not just about business for us. We are deeply committed to giving back to the communities we love. Our charitable foundation has undertaken projects like building houses in Lima’s shanty towns, providing over 100 homes to re-house 500 locals over seven years. We ensure fair wages, with factory workers receiving at least 50% above the minimum salary, and prioritize women’s empowerment, with seventy percent of our workforce being women. We offer workshops, training, access to healthcare, and opportunities for career advancement. By working collaboratively, we aim to disrupt the norm in a positive way while giving back to the Amazon region through our NGOs.
Who do you admire?
I admire Richard Branson for his unwavering dedication to helping the environment and his remarkable charitable giving. Richard’s commitment to sustainable business practices and his initiatives to address pressing environmental issues have been truly inspiring. He doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk.
Richard’s philanthropic work and generosity in supporting various charitable causes showcase his genuine concern for people and communities in need. He understands the power of business to effect positive change and consistently demonstrates it through his actions.
In many ways, Richard Branson serves as a role model for our approach to business – one that prioritizes not only profitability but also the well-being of our planet and the communities we serve. His legacy of environmental stewardship and philanthropy is something we deeply admire and aspire to emulate in our own journey.
Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
When reflecting on our journey with Truly Nuts, I can’t help but acknowledge that, like any business, we’ve encountered our fair share of challenges along the way. However, what sets us apart is our unwavering commitment to turning those challenges into opportunities. It’s this approach that has defined our path and made us who we are today.
Let’s rewind to our early days, particularly when we were working with garlic. We realized that the quality of garlic available in the market in Peru didn’t always meet the high standards we wanted to deliver to our customers. This realization prompted us to take matters into our own hands. We decided to lease land and cultivate our own garlic, eventually discovering the perfect conditions high in the Andes for producing exceptional purple garlic—a variety that wasn’t widely known at the time. This bold move not only addressed the initial challenge but also allowed us to command premium prices, creating a blue ocean market. To this day, we proudly stand as the leading international supplier of large, premium purple garlic.
A similar challenge arose when we ventured into Brazil nuts. Initially, we partnered with another producer, outsourcing the production of containers. However, this partnership came with its own set of problems, including theft and delays, ultimately affecting our clients and presenting us with a formidable challenge. In response, my partner Greg and I decided that the only way to regain control and ensure the highest quality was to build our Brazil nut facility—an endeavor we approached with the ambition to create the world’s best facility, equipped with cutting-edge technology.
Our vision has always been to bring our products directly to consumers. Recent market turbulence, driven by the pandemic and geopolitical events, caused a significant downturn in the wholesale market, reducing the number of buyers by approximately 9%. Faced with this volatility, we saw an opportunity to pivot and minimize risk. Selling our products directly to consumers became the solution, enabling us to bypass the unpredictability of the wholesale market.
We also recognized a gap in the industry. While many producers focused solely on wholesale distribution, our mission has consistently been to disrupt the market positively. Becoming producers of consumer products was yet another way to revolutionise the industry and challenge the status quo. It’s worth noting that this shift isn’t common among major players. Large conglomerates dominate the market, often leaving smaller producers with core brands but no direct supply control. This observation further fueled our determination to get our products directly into the hands of consumers, leveraging our unique story and exceptional products.
In essence, we’ve transformed challenges into opportunities throughout our journey with Truly Nuts. From our pioneering efforts with garlic and Brazil nuts to our bold move into the consumer product realm, each challenge has only propelled us forward. We believe that our story, marked by resilience and innovation, sets us apart and offers us a remarkable opportunity to expand our brand by connecting directly with consumers. Our commitment to disrupting the market while maintaining unwavering quality and ethics continues to drive us forward, making every challenge we’ve faced a stepping stone toward our success.
What defines your way of doing business?
Our way of doing business is defined by a deep commitment to health, the planet, and giving back to local communities. It all started when I first visited Peru in 2005. While the world often focused on regions like Africa in need of support, I couldn’t ignore the poverty I witnessed in Peru and Bolivia. Over the years, we’ve dedicated ourselves to making a positive impact in this often-forgotten part of the world.
For 13 years, we’ve supported a shanty town in Lima, and Greg has been based there for a decade, forging strong connections with the country and the region. Our mission is not just about giving money to people; it’s about creating sustainable enterprises that empower communities to generate their income. By doing so, we’re providing an alternative to deforestation, which is often the result of economic desperation.
Our ultimate goal is to build an infrastructure that allows these communities to harvest Brazil nuts without harming the rainforest. This is a unique opportunity that hasn’t been explored before. And we don’t want to stop there; we aim to replicate this model with other products that are not only healthy for consumers but also environmentally responsible.
In a world where big food companies are criticized for compromising quality and sustainability, we see an opportunity to disrupt the industry by ensuring our practices benefit everyone along the supply chain, from the local communities to the consumers. Our way of doing business is driven by a vision of a healthier planet and thriving communities, and we’re committed to making that vision a reality.
What advice would you give someone first starting out?
To those who are just embarking on their entrepreneurial journey, I would say that: Challenges are an inherent part of the business landscape. However, it’s not the challenges themselves that define your journey; it’s how you choose to respond to them.
Our story is a testament to the power of turning obstacles into opportunities. When we started, we faced hurdles that could have deterred us.
For instance, in our early days working with garlic, we encountered quality issues in the market that didn’t align with our vision of excellence. Rather than accepting the status quo, we chose to take control of the situation. We leased land, cultivated our own garlic, and ventured into uncharted territory, ultimately discovering a unique and valuable product—the exquisite purple garlic. This transformation from challenge to opportunity not only set us apart but also laid the foundation for our success.
Similarly, our foray into Brazil nuts came with its own set of challenges, including a problematic partnership. Instead of succumbing to setbacks, we saw the potential for growth. We built the world’s premier Brazil nut facility, prioritizing quality and innovation, and effectively turned adversity into an advantage.
As entrepreneurs, it’s crucial to understand that challenges are part of the journey. They test your resolve, creativity, and determination. The secret lies in viewing each obstacle as an opportunity for growth. It’s about finding that silver lining, that innovative solution, and forging a path forward.
Moreover, the passion that drives your business is the engine that propels you through these challenges. Our journey began with a genuine love for Latin American products and a desire to share their goodness with the world. When you’re passionate about your vision, you’ll find the strength to overcome obstacles, adapt, and thrive.
So, my advice to budding entrepreneurs is this: Embrace challenges as stepping stones to success. Recognise that they’re an integral part of the journey and that your response to them will shape your story. Be unwavering in your pursuit of what you’re passionate about, and don’t be afraid to take bold steps to make it happen. Every challenge you encounter is an opportunity waiting to be seized, and it’s those opportunities that will lead you to your own remarkable journey of entrepreneurship.