The Good Spoon co-founder and chairman Jordan Lellouche tells Andy Coyne about his plans to grow the vegan mayonnaise brand internationally and about his product development strategy.
France-based vegan mayonnaise business The Good Spoon is the result of a coming together of a two Paris region businesses, one a food-tech firm and the other a food product development and marketing company.
It was a meeting at a trade show which saw Jordan Lellouche, who ran The Fooding Company – the development and marketing firm – engage with Gaetan Gohin, co-founder of the food-tech business Algama, which specialises in microalgae and its use in food products.
The pair soon began to talk about working together on a new brand to tap into the surge of interest in plant-based products and Algama’s expertise in ingredients.
The result of that chat is The Good Spoon, which they co-founded and which has since developed a vegan mayonnaise product – swapping eggs for chlorella – that is now sold in supermarkets in France and Belgium.
just-food: Tell me about that initial conversation with Algama.
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Jordan Lellouche: We met at a Carrefour food show and discussed innovations around food. This led us to talk about vegan mayonnaise and how we could make it and combine that with our marketing experience.
just-food: How did the business come together?
Jordan Lellouche: It is essentially a joint venture. Algama specialises in microalgae and The Fooding Company develops and markets brands. The JV combines the experience of both.
just-food: And do you manufacture the end product?
Jordan Lellouche: We don’t manufacture ourselves. We outsource the production based on our recipe.
just-food: You attracted EUR500,000 (US$585,644) in investment from Lever VC, which backs start-ups offering alternatives to meat, dairy and seafood protein. What has this allowed you to do?
Jordan Lellouche: This was just before the Covid period in March. It helped us to develop our team and to invest in the product, which we changed from fresh to ambient. The Lever money allowed us to develop a team of ten people in sales and marketing.
just-food: Nick Cooney at Lever VC has described The Good Spoon as “the best plant-based mayo and condiments company in Europe”. How important was taste rather than ethical concerns when you were creating the product?
Jordan Lellouche: Very. Using microalgae you can create the right quality of product. And it healthier as it has less fat. If you don’t use microalgae in the process, it is a very difficult product to make. Ours is close to a classic mayonnaise. We spent two years in research and development.
just-food: What was the initial response from the French retailers you approached?
Jordan Lellouche: The retailers here had been looking for some years for vegan mayonnaise because it is very complicated to make this type of product. The market in France for this type of food is growing a lot and buyers are putting a lot of resources into vegan foods. It was launched in Paris in 300 Cojean stores and now we’re in 1,000 stores including Cojean, Franprix, Auchan and Carrefour in France and Belgium.
just-food: You initially had a mayo product range including curry-flavoured mayonnaise but I understand you’ve scaled that back.
Jordan Lellouche: Yes. We decided to keep it simple and to start with two SKUs – Supernaise, which is like a classic mayo, and Garlinaise, our garlic mayo.
just-food: What was your thinking around price-point?
Jordan Lellouche: We have deliberately made the product not too expensive. It is about EUR2.00 for 125g which is about 20% more than the classic mayo.
just-food: I know it has only been a short while since launch but can you give us an idea of how sales are going?
Jordan Lellouche: We don’t have exact information to give you as we are a start-up but we know we have had a good response in the supermarkets around Paris. The reaction from consumers has been very good.
just-food: Is the retail market the only channel you are interested in?
Jordan Lellouche: No. We are interested in foodservice as well. We are in discussion in France with a chain which provides food for schools, hospitals, military sites and other public places. The French government is now starting to push vegan food in schools and we can supply our product as a condiment that fits in with this push. We are also in talks with a UK foodservice operator that supplies school canteens.
just-food: You mentioned your product is being sold by Carrefour in Belgium. I would imagine Belgium, with a culture of putting mayonnaise on their frites, and the Netherlands, would be attractive propositions for you?
Jordan Lellouche: Yes. We only launched there a few weeks ago but it is a very attractive market.
just-food: And you mentioned foodservice in the UK. Is the UK retail market of interest to you?
Jordan Lellouche: Yes. We are not signed up with any retailers in the UK yet but we would love to be.
just-food: Why is the UK an attractive market for you?
Jordan Lellouche: The UK is a very interesting market for The Good Spoon as innovation is very present there. We are starting discussions with different distributors for a launch in 2021.
just-food: What are your longer-term ambitions for the brand?
Jordan Lellouche: We want to be a global brand for vegan food. At the moment we are focused on vegan mayo but we may look at vegan milk or vegan meat alternatives in the future. We haven’t started developing products in this area yet. We are just reflecting on and analysing new meat alternatives. Ultimately, we want to have a great offer for the markets in France, Belgium and the UK and then we will then look at other countries.
just-food: You launched just as the Covid-19 pandemic was kicking in. How has this affected you?
Jordan Lellouche: We postponed our launch with [French grocer] Auchan. It was supposed to be in March but had to be put back. But we have not lost any deals. At the start of Covid, retailers were focused on key products rather than new products but now they understand that consumers want more and more alternative foods.