The Agri-tech Growth and Resources for Innovation Project (AGRI Project) has lent its support to a Harper Adams student to create her start-up business.
Read more about the project - and how they helped - here.
BSc (Hons) Agri-Food Marketing and Business student, Zoe Legg contacted the AGRI Project in March 2021, after wanting to get her foot through the door in the health supplement world – while backing the UK’s dairy farmers - with her Better On British Whey brand.
The AGRI Project, which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, is a partnership between Harper Adams University and Aston University, providing free business support to eligible small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agri-tech and food and drink sectors based in the Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin regions.
The project began in 2017 and has successfully supported over 120 business, through technical support and sector-specific knowledge delivered by expert teams at both universities.
Its multi-disciplinary team works closely with budding entrepreneurs, like Zoe, providing bespoke and tailored support to help bring new products to the market.
Better On Ltd was developed by Zoe, after she found it difficult to increase her protein content for fitness, due to food intolerances.
Zoe said: “The idea came to me during the Covid-19 pandemic, I spoke to my lecturers about having a strong desire to create a product that contained 100% British whey powder, as I could not find one on the market which aligned with my own values and needs.
“I have used a high protein rich diet to support my mental and physical health and want to promote this through the brand to others. Also, as whey is a by-product from the cheese making process, which is often unused, using it in my products is a sustainable way to add protein to consumer diets.”
The support provided to businesses like Zoe’s by the AGRI project is divided into two stages, Innovation Review and Innovation Support, which are discussed at the application stage – the goal is to provide tailored support to allow for innovative, productive and efficient results.
For Zoe’s business venture, the AGRI Project conducted an Innovation Review - which was 12 hours of support, and identified local cheese producers that could supply Better On with liquid whey for developing the product. The team also researched how to process liquid whey into powder form and identified the best method to do this for the business, in terms of ease and cost.
Following this, the Innovation Support stage - which consists of a minimum of 60 hours - was conducted, with the main focus being a pilot production trial. Small scale pilot production can provide samples for market research, identify processing issues early and assist in optimising processes prior to large-scale manufacturing. It can also give an insight into the manufacturing costs for the product’s development and commercialisation.
Nutritional analysis was conducted on the whey from a local supplier to identify the percentage protein content - this was then used to determine whether the local suppliers’ whey was suitable to be used in the product.
Zoe explained: “The trial identified that the local cheese makers’ whey would not be suitable for my product. However, this support saved me time and money and the team put me in contact with alternative companies to contact - without this, my start-up business would not have been able to conduct the research until much later.”
By 2022, Zoe had also secured support from the Prince’s Trust with building and launching Better On and received funding for creating recyclable packaging. She had also sourced suitable British whey for the product, had it manufactured by a British company and used a local designer for the packaging and logos.
She officially launched the product in December 2022 at the Harper Adams University Christmas market. Better On has been selling online and in the neighbouring rural town to the University in Newport, Shropshire, as well as gyms in Exeter.
Zoe said: “It was fantastic to have the support from the AGRI Project as it was like someone was holding my hand through the business planning and someone was always there to bounce ideas off or ask questions to.
“One of the best things about working with the AGRI Project was that it validated my idea and it was good to talk it through with people that had more knowledge and experience than me.
“I am still in contact and being supported by the AGRI Project now, even though the work with them has been completed, as the team are interested in how I and the business are getting on.”
Next steps for Zoe and the business are to create a loyalty scheme for the products, work on a feasibility study and, for her fourth year Honours Research Project, to focus on product development with the whey protein powder such as breakfast bars or high protein snack bar.
Dr Eric Siqueiros, the Innovation Manager from the AGRI Project said: “It was really enjoyable working with and supporting such an entrepreneurial person, and we look forward to following Zoe and Better On’s future journey.”