Founded in London in 2015 by siblings Irina and Victor Turcan, Erbology places ingredients at its core. The company takes plants that have nutritional benefits associated with consumption – such as Jerusalem artichoke, aronia berries or nopal cactus – and turns them into 'wholesome' foods, drinks, oils and powders.
Erbology aims to make these “powerful plants”, many of which have been used in traditional medicines, more available. Extending its offering to include snacking items has been key here. “Erbology initially created food from the plants in their purest forms, like oils, powders or juices. Then we took that further and included these plants into a new range of snacking products, like crackers, energy bars and granola,” Irina Turcan explained.
While Erbology sits at the premium end of the market, incorporating premium and functional plant-based ingredients into snacking options not only made them easier to consume, it also reduced the price for consumers, Turcan explained.
“We are not premium for the sake of being premium. Our products are premium but that is because we use the highest quality ingredients. For example, sprouted buckwheat is a premium ingredient: we would simply not be able to price our crackers lower.
“One step [to improving affordability] was to integrate these ingredients into everyday snacking. I understand that a bottle of amaranth seed oil or Jerusalem artichoke powder is premium. But integrate a little of it into energy balls that are within the price range that you see on the market then the ingredient becomes more accessible.”
Erbology also wants to “stay as close to nature as possible” and – unlike many supplements – the plants that go into Erbology’s food products are minimally processed, Turcan claimed.
“The entire brand is 100% certified organic, vegan, gluten-free and, on top of that, the snacking range is raw [and paleo]. It is very important for us to use ingredients that are pure and natural.”
Plaudits from PepsiCo
Erbology won a €100,000 grant from PepsiCo last month at the conclusion of the snack food giant’s six-month Nutrition Greenhouse project.
Announcing the award, Juan Ignacio Amat, vice president of nutrition for PepsiCo Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, praised Erbolody’s “enthusiasm, drive and collaboration”.
Over the course of the last six months, Erbology launched 11 new products, drawing on PepsiCo’s marketing expertise to help launch the expanded range.
“A key part of the last six months has also been to help Erbology develop its approach with retailers. This was certainly a success, with the company now listed on Ocado,” PepsiCo said.
While Erbology feeds into consumer trends that continue to gain traction, Turcan insisted that the group leading rather than following this shift in consumer expectations.
“We don’t follow the trends. We want to set the industry bar high and inspire consumers to lead healthier, more balanced lifestyles. We are not just a snacking company or an oils company. The range promotes balance… It is not just taking an ingredient and following the trend, it is making sure people can source their energy from some of the best ingredients out there.”
Although Erbology’s products are all plant-based, Turcan was quick to stress that the company does not advocate any particular dietary choices. “We are not saying that you should be vegan or you should pursue a paleo diet. That is not what Erbology is about. I think every person has to discover their own body and what works well for them.”
Erbology takes its inspiration from the cultural experience of its founders, who were born in Moldova where, Turcan noted, they were exposed to a “lot of different influences”. The siblings have since lived in various European countries, including Italy, the Czech Republic, Holland and Switzerland: “We have traveled quite a bit… You learn about these flavours growing up.”
As the group expanded its line of products to include snacking options, Turcan was enthused by international cuisines. “It is one of those creative areas where we are not afraid to experiment. We don’t want to come up with something that is already out there. We want to excite people and come up with new ideas and flavours.”
Growth markets and channels
Turning to the future, innovation will continue to be a core principle supporting Erbology’s growth. This will be particularly significant as the company expands into international markets, Turcan suggested.
“We want to grow internationally. As a British company, we want to go beyond Britain and make our range accessible globally. We are looking at the US. In fact, we have already started selling in the US. We are currently available online on Amazon Prime [nationwide]… We would like to partner with retailers there,” she said.
Buoyed by healthy eating trends, Erbology also plans to grow its fledgling presence in Europe, where it already sells products in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
“The trend of living a healthier more balanced life can be seen across all the countries – no matter whether it is Europe or the US.”
The company, which has leveraged e-commerce platforms such as Amazon to extend its presence, is also building relationships with retailers in both the UK and international markets.
Erbology, which has a presence in UK independent and health channels, recently secured listings with Ocado. While it is early days, other retail multiples could also be on the horizon.
“The idea is to make these plants accessible and a good way to distribute your products is with the multiples. We want it to be enjoyed by a wider audience. It would be great if they could go to any supermarket and find them.”
Supported by the PepsiCo grant it recently won as part of the snack giant’s start-up incubator, Erbology is ramping up its online presence, with a focus on delivering content that engages and educates.
“We are going to invest in our e-commerce presence. We want to work on the content and educate the community on how to use these ingredients,” Turcan explained.
The entrepreneur believes that educating consumers about the uses and health benefits of the plants Erbology bases its products on is a significant opportunity for the company.
“It is an opportunity. We are really enjoying working on this content, especially when our community is really active. It is really rewarding when you see people engaging with the content you create. It is the creative side of the business and we want to work further on that. We have so many exciting plants, the imagination is endless.”