Meagan Boyle is the co-founder of vegan confectionary brand, Mummy Meagz, Over the past 4 years, the vegan food market in the UK has grown rapidly. Google searches show an increased interest in veganism and this year, for the first time, every leading supermarket in the UK now has their own vegan product range.
As part of our series of interviews with Yorkshire business owners and entrepreneurs, we spoke to Meagan to find out more about her range of vegan confectionery and her reasons for launching it…
Hi Meagan, could you tell us a little more about your business?
Mummy Meagz is my alter-ego – and it’s also the name of the confectionary brand I founded alongside my adult daughter, Willow. We’ve started a plant-based revolution in sweet treats from the kitchen of the Cottingham café we also own together, Blondes.
What inspired you to start Mummy Meagz?
In 2016 we decided to turn the café vegan, after adopting plant-based lifestyles ourselves. I put my sweet tooth to use, and started to make recipes that would appeal to this customer base. Soon after, products such as our famous Rocky Roads began to fly off the shelves and we decided to launch them into retail too. By working with Holland & Barrett, we’ve been able to introduce our range to more people than ever, and you can now purchase our products from shops on High Streets around the country – and online.
How do your vegan confectionery products differ from others on the market?
We often describe ourselves as ‘taking the world’s favourite snacks and turning them vegan’. There’s a perception that vegan food is bland, overly healthy, and boring. We’re changing all that with products such as our Chuckie Egg – a vegan ‘dupe’ of a crème egg, our new Orange Choccie Bars, and with our sumptuous Rocky Roads that are topped with vegan marshmallows and come in flavours including Original, Minty, Orange and Sea Salt and Cinder Toffee. Our Rocky Roads are gluten-free too, meaning that everyone can enjoy a treat, regardless of their dietary preference.
What challenges did you face when launching your vegan product range?
I’m 72, so I never planned on being at the centre of a plant-based revolution! But I’m a child of the sixties, with hippie values at heart, and by running a vegan confectioner, I know I can do my bit to make the world a kinder place, one chocolate bar at a time. By partnering in the business alongside Willow, I’ve been able to depend upon the unrivalled support of my family at a time when we’ve scaled up from a single counter to be stocked in retailers all around the UK and Ireland – and even as far afield as Europe. I just couldn’t do this without them.
If you could go back to the day you decided to start Mummy Meagz, is there anything you would do differently?
We started running Blondes in 2003, and it was 13 years before we turned it vegan. Like most people who make this change, I wish I’d found out about a plant-based lifestyle sooner. My body feels better for it, and I know I’m creating real change for the planet and the animals which inhabit it. Turning the business plant-based was a risk, and something we had to consider carefully, but I’m so glad we made the change. There are more than 600,000 vegans in the UK now, and business is booming – whether it’s from people committed to a plant-based diet, or omnivores who realise that our vegan fare is tastier than much of the competition!
You’ve recently launched a Christmas range. Could you tell us more about these products?
We’ve just launched a bumper selection of Christmas treats, which you can find in Holland & Barrett. The range is so exciting – it includes a Hot Chocolate Bursting Bauble, which you can drop into hot plant-based milk to create a luxurious hot chocolate before it opens to reveal fluffy pink and white marshmallows to top your hot drink. I also love the Caramel Fondant Filled Snowman and our Jolly Buttons, which have been inspiring so many Christmas bakes. There are a whopping eight products in the range, so I’d really encourage everyone to take a look at our website to find out more!
How do you balance your working life and your home life?
Working with family, in a business that we are genuinely care about, means that the line between work and home is often blurred. However, because we are passionate, our work is often a pleasure – and of course, involves lots of chocolate! As well as spending time in meetings with my daughter, I also make sure we have dinner together at least once a week. We also do things as pair, such as getting involved with Hull Animal Rights Team and walking our pack of dogs, including our Romanian rescue, Bertie – who is also the Mummy Meagz mascot.
What would you say is your proudest achievement so far?
There’s been so much that we’ve done together. Business-wise it has to be the continued popularity of the Chuckie Egg this year – during the Easter period, they were selling at a rate of one every thirty seconds, which was well beyond our expectations and meant that shelves were bare in many of the stores around the country. We’re bringing them back nice and early for the start of 2021, so chocolate lovers who are quick off the mark can get their hands on one while they last!
But it’s not all about business. I couldn’t be prouder of my family. Not only do they make all this possible, but they work hard to support our community. From sponsoring the Cottingham Christmas lights, to walking elderly residents’ dogs while we were in lockdown, they’re always looking to help others.
What advice would you give to a mum with a new product idea? What are the first steps they should take to turn their idea into a profitable business?
You’re never too old to turn your idea into a business reality. If anything, age brings experience, which is vital to making a business successful. For those seeking to capitalise on the growing vegan economy, there is plenty of financial help available. In particular, we benefited from Veg Capital, which was able to back us, as well as the support of other experts in the plant-based world. These people are now a part of our extended family – they know us and our business, and now I’m able to support others to grow their business too, just like any mother should!
What can we expect from Mummy Meagz in 2021?
2020 has been a challenging year, but I’ve been making the most of it. As well as offering a takeaway service from Blondes, I’ve also been busy in the kitchen cooking up some new products! I can’t reveal too many of the details just yet, but all I can say is to expect from exciting flavour combinations for Veganuary and Easter that won’t just tantalise your tastebuds – they’ll completely shake up your idea of what vegan chocolate is supposed to be!
A huge thank you to the inspirational Meagan for speaking to us about her exciting brand. If you would like to take part in our “Yorkshire Business Leaders” series, please email [email protected]