Woman reveals the moment that sparked her $40m lolly empire

Sometimes there is no better feeling than flopping on the couch and ripping open a bag of lollies while watching a film – but sometimes there is a nagging feeling stopping you from fully enjoying that moment of bliss.

If the joy of those blissful moments is marred by concerns about the health impact of consuming sugar, Rachel Bajada might have the answer.

Motivated by her family members’ experiences with type 2 diabetes, the entrepreneur felt compelled to safeguard both her own and her family’s health.

“When I then tried to cut sugar myself to avoid going down the same path, I realised how difficult it was to find low sugar foods that didn’t taste like cardboard and weren’t made with artificial and synthetic ingredients – some of which are arguably just as bad as sugar,” she said.

“Coming from a food science and marketing background, with a flair for baking, I decided to create a sugar free range myself and develop great tasting, high quality options available market-wide.”

That is how Noshu – which stands for ‘No Sugar’ – was born.

Ten years since the initial spark of her idea, Ms. Bajada still finds sugar to be a complex and fascinating subject.

“I knew that completely abstaining from sugar and sweet foods was not a feasible option for most of us.
“So, making a range of great-tasting, low-sugar sweet treats available as an alternative to the sugar-laden mainstream snacks Australians love was critical. This would enable people to successfully reduce their sugar consumption long-term.

“Doing so naturally, without using artificial or chemical sweeteners, was just as important,” she said.

Within two years of launch, Noshu’s doughnut range went viral on social media and the brand gained a cult following. It was the moment Ms Bajada realised her idea to go out on a limb was worth it.

“That’s when I thought to myself ‘Maybe we’re really onto something here and this is going to work,’ she said.

“Since day one I’ve always kept the brand and company focused on quality, integrity, and innovation, which I believe are critical to any brand’s success.

“After all, your customer buys into the ‘why’ just as much as the ‘what’.”

But, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

Despite Noshu now being stocked in Coles and Woolworths stores nationwide, getting the attention of bigger retailers to give the brand a chance was challenging, requiring endless samples and a lot of patience.

Manufacturing in Australia is also an ongoing issue due to lack of investment.

Since Covid, the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry has faced many ongoing challenges. Starting with supply chain disruption and shortages, commodity, and input cost price rises, and now the ongoing effects of inflation and increasing trade investment required to remain competitive,” Ms Bajada said.

“One of our biggest challenges is working with expensive natural ingredients, necessary to effectively replace sugar for both taste and function (sugar is very cheap in comparison).

“We do our best to deliver exciting new products at an accessible price point for most consumers. Unfortunately, better-for-you foods with quality, natural ingredients are inherently more expensive to produce than conventional high-sugar, mass-produced alternatives.”

Another particularly memorable business challenge came on Ms Bajada’s wedding day when she was dealing with a shipment of product that would make or break her deal with Coles.

But it all was worth it.

In just four years, Noshu has soared from $4 million to $40 million, boasting over 40 products across six categories, with 20 employees in the head office and 100 in the factory.

Ms Badaja says she owes this success to having the right people management team that has taken the business to a new level.

“Our mission is to change society’s relationship with sugar, so we are constantly innovating and expanding our reach,” she said.

“We are focusing our next stage of growth by expanding within our current categories – such as cake and bakery, baking mixes and aids, snack bars and confectionery – and increasing distribution in other channels such as independent retailers and convenience, as well as new and emerging markets, mainly throughout Asia.”

One of the brand’s most recent products is the Mind-Blowing Jellies, which Ms Bajada said she is “super proud” of as they have 75 per cent less sugar than regular jelly lollies.

They’re made with only natural colours and flavours, and natural, plant-based, non-laxative sweeteners. Perfect for a movie night.

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