In today’s Behind the Biz interview I’m chatting with Renad Sheraif about her business journey with Yugo Spice – never tasted before flavours to spice up your meals.
Where did the inspiration for Yugo Spice come from?
If Yugo could do one thing well it would be to empower people to experiment more in the kitchen, to reduce their reliance on all the same tried & tested recipes, to initiate the odd spontaneous flourish that may or may not work and not to become a prisoner to unduly complicated 24 ingredient recipes. As with so many things in life, simplicity is often king!
My personal motivation was a realisation as a student that regular amazing restaurant outings weren’t a reality for a cash-strapped student. My idea was luxuriously involving flavours that weren’t dependent on spending an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen.
There’s a growing inquisitive acceptance for World Cuisine which suggested the time was certainly ripe to revisit fusion cooking that took inspiration from all corners of the planet.
At the same time the UK’s incumbent cooking sauce & paste aisle looked in urgent need of an urgent reboot, a struggling food aisle where convenience and conservative recipes ruled the roost.
When did you know you were onto something?
I developed Yugo when I was working on my Master’s Degree (In Entrepreneurship) so I was lucky enough to have access to a whole course of colleagues who were willing to test my recipes and voice their honest opinions. Such an enthusiastic sampling programme was fantastic in helping me shape who would and wouldn’t be the brand loyalists to my future range.
Yugo’s bold flavour palate dips into culinary powerhouses as deliciously diverse as Japan, Mexico, The Indian sub-continent & of course the Mediterranean. I wrestled with the fact that some time ago ‘fusion’ was a culinary term that engendered derision in many quarters, deemed by many to be a throwaway ‘celebrity chef’ phrase used to add an extra air of mystery to their so-so work.
In truth there is nothing elite or mystical about taking, tweaking and merging recipes from around the world. This is a timeless word-of-mouth exercise that has endured for centuries. What’s so exciting today is that home cooks are better travelled and more open-minded than ever before, which means they’re less likely to get hung up about a recipe’s so-called authenticity.
How did you decide upon your brand name?
Simple as Yugo is actually Japanese for ‘fusion.’
What did you do before launching Yugo Spice?
I suppose I’m a little unusual in that I’m not a food founder with an extensive back-catalogue of roles within this sector. I’m a recently graduated student who moved to the UK from Saudi Arabia when I was 17 so I could study Economics & Management at King’s College before embarking on a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship.
Whilst it could be argued that such a background makes me naïve to the real business world, I’d argue that it helps keep things fresh as I’m not weighed down by cynicism or failure. It may sound foolhardy but I’ve always believed that a great idea is a great idea that you must run with, as opposed to biding one’s time in the mistaken belief that more years on the clock with inevitably pay dividends. FMCG is such a fleet-footed industry that procrastination seems unwise.
Did you always plan to run your own business?
Clearly my Master’s degree would suggest so! I didn’t initially know what my specialist subject would be, (although I’ve always loved food & cooking) which is why I believe you need to learn the ropes as best you can and wait for inspiration to strike. I am partnered with a very established sauce manufacturer so whilst I bring fresh thinking to the party, they bring sound business acumen and experience to the party.
Please share a business high and low with us
High: The unveiling of my new packaging made my heart skip as it was everything and more I hoped it would be; something fresh, vibrant and truly distinct.
Low: There are always ‘knockers’ who take joy in slamming on the handbrake. Hard to pick one out from the small but vocal cluster although one joyous soul did once tell me, ‘that I seemed like a failure who wouldn’t succeed in life.’ It’s all part of the character building process and says more about him than me.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Facebook food hub is a fantastic collective of helpful, well-connected foodies you can call upon for well-grounded and helpful advice.
Never skimp on packaging or product photography when launching a brand. Grabbing attention (in a positive way) is so integral to getting off to the best possible start.
Social media a critical battleground where small brands can compete with their well-financed peers.
What’re your plans for the year ahead?
Yugo is at the start of its distribution journey, so there’s a lot of bedding down to be done. We’re also looking at a seasonal special in October to celebrate our 1 year anniversary and some ongoing product innovation, because no young brand can afford to rest on its laurels.
Thank you to Renad for taking the time to be a part of my Behind the Biz series. I hope you enjoyed hearing about her business journey as much as i did.
Renad has combined her passion for food and business to create something delicious and unique. I can’t wait to see Yugo Spice grow in the year ahead and will certainly be trying out a few of the flavours.