FH: Stories | Helenor Rogers, Troo Foods

Today’s consumers want to make informed choices about the products they purchase, with wellbeing and sustainability topping their wish-lists.

Troo Foods’ products deliver on most fronts – vegan, free from gluten and dairy, natural ingredients and plastic-free packaging.

A purpose-driven company selling ‘gut-healthy granola’, it sets out to help people to live happy and healthier lives. And it all started four years ago at Helenor Rogers’ kitchen table in The Bayle, Folkestone.

“I was making granola for my son because when I looked at the amount of sugar in shop-bought granolas, we might as well have been eating Coco Pops,” says Helenor.

With 25 years of marketing experience, Helenor felt it was time to start her own project. “The granola market was already becoming crowded, so we needed a position that was different and relevant. At the time my husband and business partner, Mike had been reading about gut health, and I saw that our cereal was ticking most of the boxes.”

After sourcing a sugar replacement called Inulin at a food science exhibition, Helenor started selling her granola through Facebook. She eventually entered and won a competition for new food and drinks brands. “I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. But once we were in the competition, we realised that working with grocers was where we needed to be.”

In January 2018, Troo Granola was snapped up by retailers Planet Organic and Harvey Nichols, and later won contracts with Whole Foods Market and Selfridges. It is now also stocked by Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Holland & Barrett and delivered by Ocado and the Milkman (Milk & More).

Helenor set standards that would prove challenging but would also be one of their biggest selling points; she made ‘gut health’ prominent (not a commonly-used phrase at the time) and wanted to try a radical new idea – plastic free packaging.

“Our packing supplier had plastic-free products that no one wanted to use, so offered it to us. People were telling us we are crazy and that we were taking big risks. But if we don’t take a risk, who is going to do it? As a small company, you are duty bound to call out the big boys.”

Helenor credits the local authority in being very positive when she started out. “The Health & Safety officers were so helpful, it gave us a real boost. They gave us great advice, it felt like the support services really wanted to help me and my business.”

The business now turns over just short of £500,000 a year and is working towards becoming a certified B Corporation company.

The recent rise in ‘gut health’ products from big brands doesn’t concern Helenor. “As an independent business, your voice is very small. But if everyone else is talking about gut health, it gives us a chance to be heard.

“22% of people in Britain die because of malnutrition – people have to wake up to it. We don’t just make products, we want to educate and inspire people.”

 

And while the manufacturing base has a new location, Troo Foods’ HQ is still based in Helenor and Mike’s Folkestone home.

“We moved here from Brighton 12 years ago. We wanted a better environment for our children to grow up in, and we loved what was happening here. Brighton is quite clique-y, whereas Folkestone is really inclusive and so welcoming to new people – in particular to families. You can be busy all the time here!”

Now also an active member of the Folkestone Women’s Rugby Club, Helenor says she has found the perfect work and life balance in Folkestone. “I can be at a meeting with Sainsbury’s in Holborn in 90 minutes door to door, I’ve been able to give my children an outstanding education without paying a penny and I’ve got more friends here in Folkestone than I’ve ever had.”