Hungry Squirrel make seriously gourmet spreads, using high quality ingredients and with delectable flavours from maple-syrup-sweetened Cookie Dough Cashew to the hearty ABC mix (possibly our favourite at GC HQ - although it's not easy to choose!) Made in small batches in Aberdeenshire, it's fantastic to be able to highlight another delicious Scottish product in our Six Questions - we asked founder Susan Yule to tell us more.
1. How/why and when did you start your business?
I started Hungry Squirrel in May 2017 from my home kitchen after becoming intolerant to peanut butter and finding the alternative nut butters available on the supermarket shelves uninspiring. I also wanted to provide my children with a healthy, nutritious spread that was not full of refined sugar and palm oil.
I wanted to produce a range of nut butters which are both healthy and delicious. There is something for everyone and being such a versatile food product enables lots of opportunities for creating different recipes - they can be used in cooking, baking or straight from the jar as a topping or accompaniment.
2. What do you do that sets you apart from other nut butters?
Hungry Squirrel nut butters come in a range of exciting flavours, both sweet and savoury, and incorporate many different varieties of nuts all of which have unique nutritional benefits. My range of nut butters are all vegan, refined sugar free, contain no palm oil, are naturally gluten free and above all... full of flavour!
3. How did the pandemic affect your business?
COVID shifted the whole way in which my business operated. The biggest change was the inability to attend markets and events where you can meet customers face to face and allow them to taste your products first hand. Retail sales dropped off a bit as many cafés with retail spaces closed, and although many small independent retailers remained open, there was certainly a huge shift towards online shopping. My online store was busier than ever throughout all the lockdowns and multiple orders came in daily from all over the UK - it was fantastic and certainly helped my business survive through what would otherwise have been a very challenging period. Since the COVID rules have relaxed, business as usual has returned, with retail sales picking up steadily and online sales dipping somewhat. I’m also booked for 2 or 3 events this year; it’ll be lovely to reconnect with familiar customers and meet new ones!
4. How do you think the Scottish, artisan food industry could improve?
I think we have an absolutely fantastic artisan food & drink industry in Scotland, particularly up here in the North East. There is such a superb range of local produce and a supportive community of people behind them. The range of products certainly seems to be getting more diverse too – something which can only improve as more people decide to start a food business and find a niche market. I think a major area for improvement could be in encouraging more retailers to stock and promote local produce and also a nationwide drive for people to shop local and support the local economy.
5. What advice would you have for someone starting out as a small business?
Do your market research, find a product that you feel passionate about and trial it with friends and family, attend local farmers market and get real, honest feedback. Check out the competition. Do your homework and work out the costs involved. Connect with other producers and local business support organisations.
6. Apart from Greencity, which other three or more people, living or deceased, would you invite to make a dinner party entertaining?
Quentin Tarantino, Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg.