Shari Black Velvet: How long have you been working at Freedom Confectionery? What made you get involved with Freedom Confectionery? And what is your job at Freedom Confectionery?
Louise Mark: I have been working with Freedom Confectionery since the company first began trading in April 2013. I wanted to work for the company after learning firstly the ethos of the company as I fell in love with the idea that the company was going to be manufacturing cruelty free confectionery products. Secondly, I very much liked the idea of working for the respected and well known food scientist Neville Finlay, who has worked with Haribo and Goody Good Stuff providing vegetarian formulas for well-known ranges such as Gummi Bears. My job at Freedom Confectionery started out as the Office Manager but after becoming passionate about our product and the overall cruelty free food industry I've recently moved into the international sales role to help with educating the rest of the world about our products.
SBV: What inspired the vegetarian/vegan-friendly marshmallows? I read an old article that mentioned the inventor was originally inspired to create gelatine free sweets when sat by a man at an airport that couldn't eat sweets because of his beliefs.
LM: That is true, Neville was challenged in particular to make a gelatine free marshmallow and after 10 years of research and development Freedom Mallows was born. He also worked with Goody Good Stuff providing vegetarian formulas for their well-known ranges such as Gummi Bears. Neville's passion to produce free-from sweets that everyone can enjoy has grown more and more as the years progress and is looking forward to adding new free-from products to our range in the future.
SBV: How hard has it been to get Freedom Mallows in stores?
LM: A lot of Independent Retailers and wholesalers jumped at the idea of stocking our vegetarian marshmallows as it is very difficult to find vegan marshmallows. The long shelf life of the product was also very appealing to the retailers. Like most products it takes a while to get into the larger retail chains and supermarkets and we will keep the public updated on this as things progress. We are however, excited to now be stocked in Holland & Barrett stores all over the UK making our product more accessible.
SBV: You've just had a rebranding. Whose idea was it to say goodbye to the bunnies, Freddie and Fiona and instead have a sloth as a mascot?
LM: This was the whole team's suggestion. After many discussions and listening to our customers' valued feedback, our team decided to move forward and give the company a brand new image to better connect with our customers. We decided to change our on pack characters from the rabbits, which a lot of retailers saw as being related to Easter to a Sloth (Cedric) which is a favourite animal among our team.
SBV: You wrote that the rebranding is to 'better connect with our customers'. How exactly do you hope to connect to your customers and what have you discovered about your customers since originally launching Freedom Mallows?
LM: Our product is a premium product and we needed our packaging to be more vibrant and modern and to better get across the key consumer messages. This year is an extremely important time for our brand as our current focus is to make the product more accessible to all, so the packaging needed to say the right things about our product. We are a marshmallow unlike any other offering on the market as most other alternatives are made with gelatine making them unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans. We wanted to connect with our customers and show them that we are a serious about what we do and are a company dedicated to producing animal friendly products that suit most dietary requirements. We wanted our product to stand out on the shelves and clearly get the message across of what we are all about. The new packaging has been very well received by our customers. We are very proud of our image and have had fantastic feedback about the new branding.
SBV: Is it hard competing with normal marshmallows that are cheaper to make, or are you finding that more and more people want gelatine free and cruelty-free products?
LM: It really does vary from country to country. We have found that certainly Europe and in particular the UK are very conscious of what they eat, however we do find it difficult in certain other parts of the world to compete with standard gelatine marshmallows. While the ‘free from' section of the confectionery sector is still relatively new, it is growing.
SBV: Do you think the regular general public care what's in their food (ie. whether a product has beef gelatine or not... From experience, a lot of people don't even seem to know what gelatine actually is)?
LM: Consumers are becoming more aware of what goes into their foods, particularly in light of the horsemeat scandal in the UK not that long ago, and this awareness extends to the confectionery products we buy for our children. This growth in the awareness of what we are eating has impacted retail in general and it is having a drip down effect onto confectionery. Research by The Food People in 2013 led to predictions of a 50% rise in UK vegetarianism over the following two years and with the UK market for meat-free products put at £786.5m a year in 2012, this paints a very healthy picture for ‘free from' products. Almost half the UK population claims to suffer from a food allergy, with the most common allergies being gluten, wheat and dairy products.
SBV: Your Twitter name is Freedom Confectionery. Have you called yourselves Freedom Confectionery for a specific reason? Do you see the company continuing to grow to include chocolate or other sweet products?
LM: Yes we certainly have every intention to expanding our range beyond marshmallows. In fact we have new lines we are adding to our range very soon. So will definitely keep everyone updated on this.
(*NB. If you check Freedom Mallows Facebook page, they have indeed now added a new product already - Mallow Choc Dips - vegan mallows with vegan dipping chocolate).
SBV: When I interview bands I always avoid asking where their band name came from as bands get asked that all the time and are usually sick of it. That said, I haven't read where the name Freedom Mallows came from. Why 'Freedom'? Was it a play on words - for being free to eat good things like marshmallows, as well as freedom due to no cruelty being involved in the making of them?
LM: The word Freedom was chosen based on the concept of the Free-From market and the freedom to enjoy sweets knowing no cruelty was involved when producing the sweets. We found it was the best word to describe the type of confectionery we wanted to produce. To sum it up confectionery that everyone could enjoy.
SBV: What have you discovered about the food industry while working in it? Has anything shocked you? Is there anything the general public don't know but ought to?
LM: Personally I have learnt quite a lot in general about the food industry since I first began working for Freedom. To be honest, I had never given a lot of thought about what was in the confectionery I ate. You could call me naive but it was only a short time before I started working for Freedom Confectionery that I learnt most confectionery contained animal products. For my own interest I started reading a lot about the meat industry and what goes into the food we eat and how a lot of animals are treated up until the point they are slaughtered, the more I read the more I felt compelled to exclude meat from my diet and become a vegetarian.
SBV: Finally, which animals (that may be abused, kept captive etc) would you like to give freedom that don't have it?
LM: Absolutely all animals.
We have two sets of 3 bags of Freedom Mallows plus a Freedom Confectionery cotton carrier to give away to two lucky winners. All you need to do is either tweet us at @saveascream or post on our SaveAScream Facebook page (www.facebook.com/saveascream) telling us why you'd like to win the Freedom Mallows. We'll pick 2 lucky winners who will each get 3 bags of Freedom Mallows and a cotton carrier. Make sure you're following us on Twitter if you tweet us as we'll send you a private message to let you know you've won.
For more info on Freedom Mallows, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/freedomconfectionery and follow them on Twitter at www.facebook.com/freedomconfectionery