Ebitt meets Oppo's Harry Thuillier to discuss the new trend in food - healthy indulgence
Seeing a huge gap in the market for healthy indulgent foods, brothers Harry and Charlie Thuillier founded Oppo in 2014, a guilt-free ice cream brand. Oppo is the 2015 Guardian Startup of the Year, a recent recipient of a prestigious Great Taste Award, the fastest ever FMCG company to reach target through crowdfunding, and the first dairy ice cream within the UK who can legally call themselves healthy. Ebitt met Harry to discuss Oppo ice cream, healthy innovations in the Food and Drink sector and Ebitt’s upcoming event, Future Food.
What inspired you to create Oppo and what is it all about?
The Oppo journey began in 2011 when my brother and I broke the world record for the longest unsupported kite buggy adventure on land. During the trip, we started living off foods growing along the Brazilian coastline. Deliciously indulgent, they were also incredibly nutritious. This sparked an idea...'why can’t the most indulgent foods be healthy?' 'What about ice cream?' Oppo took 25 months to develop. Industry professionals insisted that it just wasn’t possible, they had tried and said there would have to be a compromise on taste. But we disagreed. Product was and is king. Oppo had to be perfect; all natural, healthy and indulgent. We launched straight into Waitrose and Ocado in October 2014 and since then the response has been overwhelming. We’ve now expanded distribution into Co-op, Whole Foods, Holland and Barrett, Budgens, Amazon Fresh and two national contract caterers. Oppo is unique. Just two years old, we’re introducing the nation to a new perspective on indulgence. Oppo appeals to the customer looking for indulgent ice cream, the parent after a sugar-free treat for the kids, the diabetic searching for an ice cream they can actually eat, and many more. Oppo represents innovation in a category which has always, mistakenly, believed there must be a compromise. If ice cream can be made healthy, what’s next?
How important are new, healthy innovations to the future of the Food and Drink industry?
For too long producers have wrongly believed that health and indulgence are opposites, that they cannot co-exist without there being some form of compromise. We’ve proved this wrong. But innovation wasn’t and never will be easy. Oppo took a long while to create and we weren’t going to launch a product until we were happy that it was perfect. But healthy innovations are increasingly going to be vital for producers working within the Food and Drink industry. Firstly, the consumer desire for healthier, but comparably indulgent products is increasing, and secondly, us producers have a responsibility to the consumer. Food should be nourishing and not damaging to your health. We’re in the midst of an obesity crisis and diabetes epidemic and healthy innovations could be the key to reversing these. People like to indulge, and why not? Eating clean all the time is boring. Making that indulgence healthier is what is necessary.
We know Oppo has already taken the ice cream industry by storm. What will be your next steps?
Oppo is built on a mission. We believe you don’t need to compromise. The most indulgent foods can and should be healthy, and being healthy doesn't mean less indulgent. We’ve proved this with ice cream, and don’t want to stop here. By 2020 we want to have products in other different food and drink categories, each the market leader in their ‘healthy indulgence’ sub-category.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs looking to enter the Food and Drink sector?
Product is king. Our product is our business and everyone who tries Oppo will be their own expert on whether or not our business is relevant for them. Focus on producing a product which exactly answers what you’re trying to produce. Also, know what you’re good at and hire for everything else. It’s fundamental to recognise your personal strengths and weaknesses, only at that point can you hire the right team to compliment your skill set. Also seek advice and mentors. These people are gold-dust and experienced people are often very generous in passing on their knowledge to get the excitement of start-ups without the stress.
You’re a guest speaker at our upcoming event, Future Food. What do businesses have to do to stay relevant?
Stay close to the end consumer. Customer needs are at the core of any product or service you create – if it doesn’t serve the market there’s little chance of success and growth. It is essential to not get carried away with new ideas and innovations without ensuring there’s market demand.