Instead of looking for an internship during her final year at university in Paris in 2013, Anne-Sophie Marquet decided to cut out the middleman and launch her own business.
Like many start-ups, the idea - in this case for a range of fruit-based foams - came when she looked to buy a product and realised it didn't exist yet.
After enlisting her classmate Janagan Suntharalingam and raising money through the state-financed institution Paris Initiative Enterprise, as well as bank loans and personal savings, Woos was born.
Currently available in strawberry, raspberry, lemon and passion fruit, while mango is in the pipeline - Woos fruit foams are vegan, free from both dairy
Product variety is a selling point
They are also clean label, which was a key concern from the very beginning. Rather than using a B2B ingredient that can be bought in bulk in various forms, such as fruit powder or liquid, the mousse is made with fresh fruit.
This means it may not always be 100% uniform or standardised – but Marquet and Suntharalingam have turned this into a selling point.
“In the food industry, it is a lot easier to work with standardised ingredients than actual fruit which are sweeter or sourer or paler depending on the weather.
"We have to accept that our batches will never be exactly the same. But as long as we explain it to our clients that is fine. People understand. Like the colour of the strawberry which is not at all a flashy red but a light pink because we add no colours,” says Marquet.
The mouse is made with six ingredients: fruit juice, fruit puree, sugar, water, pectin and a vegetarian emulsifier - either glycerol monostearate (E 471) or a citric acid ester (E 472 c) - that hold the gas in the foam.
Woos' aim is to reach around eight to ten reference fruit flavours before focusing on increasingly sought-after savoury flavours, as well as “more sophisticated recipes” that incorporate spices and herbs.
Consumer use the foams for a variety of applications and many share their ideas - ranging from desserts, cocktails or even savoury dishes such as smoked salmon with lemon foam or foie gras and passion fruit - with the company on social media.
The packaging mimics the company's clean-label concerns, says Marquet.
“We wanted the outside to reflect what is inside: something simple, natural, with no unnecessary ingredients. That is what we do and that is why the look of our bottles is stripped back and clean.”
As for the aerosol format, it’s a good way to draw attention to the product.
“We have had dozens of comments saying it looked like shampoo, soap, shaving foam, deodorant, hairspray...I think we have been through the entire cosmetics alley! But in the end it is not really a problem, on the contrary it is a good way of breaking [the ice] with people," she says.
“Immediately they smile and want to know more. Humour is a very powerful means of communication and you can create a special bound with people in five seconds if they are receptive.”
‘La French touch’
The range is currently sold in around 60 retail outlets around France, including the upmarket Grande Epicerie de Paris since March this year, and in Spain. The duo are currently in discussions with wholesalers in the UK, Switzerland and Germany.
Often the products generate a lot of interest because of the ‘made in France’ label, which they say hold a certain appeal to other European consumers.
“They are high-quality products, natural, innovative [and] made in France: these are many assets that appeal to foreign consumers even more than to the French!,” says Marquet.