FIVE MINUTES WITH PRAVEEN VIJN
Snack brand Eat Natural was co-founded by Praveen Vijn and Preet Grewal, who have led the brand to become a powerhouse in snacking. Vijn talks sustainability, brand positioning and internal communications as the keys to long-term success
How has the original brand positioning contributed to its ongoing success?
When we started out we always wanted to be a brand that could cross over from something that could be indulgent but was also healthy, so was good for you and tasted great. We always wanted to hit that sweet spot. We always believed that health should never be a compromise, and I think that continues today. Health shouldn’t be a compromise, it should actually taste great. We always focus on making our products taste as good as they possibly can and our promise that they’re made with natural ingredients, they’re made with chunky, whole nut store cupboard ingredients. That positioning has never changed and I don’t think that it will ever change.
How does the visual branding support that positioning?
That was also fairly clear. We don’t spend any money on communications, on advertising. So we thought how are we going to communicate the products to a consumer? How are you going to convey the fact that it’s honest, made with real ingredients, looks good, tastes good. So the only answer that we had was to put it into clear packaging. When we started our brand, I don’t think there were any other snack brands that actually put products into clear packaging. It wasn’t the done thing. It did it all for you. You knew exactly what you were going to get before you tasted it. You could see exactly what it was going to look like, exactly what it was going to taste like. And it showed off the whole nut ingredients before you bought the product.
How do you incorporate honesty into the brand?
Honesty is very important. You see what you get and the brand is supported by real people. We don’t outsource anything; we control everything about the making of the products from beginning to end. And when we talk about putting love into a product, we actually do put a lot of love into the making and the baking of our bars so that comes across everything.
What are your commitments in terms of sustainability?
This came out of a few things. I’m a big believer in making things fully sustainable. It must have a long life. With our Pollenation campaign, it’s less of a campaign and more of a concept of where we had a situation where we had a lot of pallets. All of our ingredients come in on wooden pallets, and some of them are broken. We decided to make a beehive out of them. We now convert our broken pallets into beehives. We have beehives which were designed for us by these fabulous visual architects based in Somerset House. This year, we’ll be empowering 200 beekeepers who will be given beehives, we’ve given bees to and training to in order to be able to set themselves up to learn a brand new skill and in return we ask them for half their honey crop.
It gives them something to work to. We make that honey, we sell that honey and we put the proceeds from the honey back into making more beehives. It’s a fully sustainable, long-term project that’s not just done out of a charitable donation but out of something which has long term growth.
What is your approach to internal communications?
I think employees get impassioned if they feel empowered and if they feel involved and if they feel like there’s a plan that we’re working to. That plan cannot be about making money; that plan has to be about making a difference to the environment, to the food-eating culture of the areas we work in. You have to be going above and beyond just being being a business that is out to make money. That is not our ethos, that is not what we try to do. We’re an individual-owned business so that really gives people a sense of belonging, a sense of loyalty and a sense of purpose and these are things that have long-term implications and the things that make people excited about working with us.