Herbalist Liam Watson had the idea to start the business around two years ago when he worked making natural supplements for retailers such as Tesco and Amazon, as well as independent companies across the UK. He approached his co-founder, Simon, who immediately saw potential and was eager to jump on board.
Liam said: “I drank milk and realised there wasn’t anything totally natural that matched what I was doing in the health space. I wondered if we could use plants, fruit and vegetables to make a great tasting drink that also had personality.
“Simon has been in the food business for his whole working career heading up NPD and factory teams, so he could use this experience to help build on the concept of a fully natural milkshake and launch this to market.”
After experimenting with different ways of making the milk, Canny was backed by the Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund, managed by Northstar Ventures, and launched eight months ago. Liam said: “We were VC backed from the start; Northstar Ventures saw what we were doing and believed in not only us, but the product. They really believed in our team which is what delivers growth for our brand.”
Since the investment, Canny is now available in around 300 stores, and has secured a deal with Virgin Trains which is due to launch soon.
Although Canny has its roots firmly in the North East, and even donates 5% of its profits to Newcastle’s Life Centre, the milk has also headed north of the border. Liam said: “Expanding in to Scotland was a natural progression for us, but the only problem is that ‘Canny’ means good, genuine here, and in Scotland it means can’t.”
Liam has plans to take Canny even further afield, and to have it known internationally. He said: “In the next five years I want the brand to be the brand of choice across the dairy milk sector, with loads more innovation to help us along the way. And we hope to have our first venture into international markets.”
With Canny set for even further expansion, Liam had some advice for other budding entrepreneurs who are looking to get started in business, he said: “Have fun, be honest, treat people with respect, take risks, ask lots of questions and challenge the norm!”
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