Couple roll with snack idea
Little balls of goodness are rolling out to 18 different countries, thanks to the growth of a family business in Worthing.
Matt and Hayley Hunt started with the idea of creating delicious, high protein snacks and developed a unique product, suitable for both adults and children.
Hayley loves the use of raw ingredients and was already making snack balls for their two boys at home.
They launched The Protein Ball Co as a start-up business in Station Road, Worthing, in October 2015 and a year later, moved to larger premises on the Downsbrook Industrial Estate, in Southdownview Way, East Worthing, where the offices, factory and warehouse are all based.
Natalie Wagstaff, marketing and communications manager, said: “The passion really shines through. Everything is very exciting, the fact that it is sold internationally and we are trying to make our mark in a competitive market. It is really growing.”
Matt and Hayley had previously founded Oloves, an olive snack business based in Morocco.
They first met in an Irish bar in Barcelona in 2001, when Matt was just out of university with a degree in business and marketing and Hayley was on holiday.
Matt said: “I had a dream to set up an olive company. We drove to Seville, which is the capital of the world for olives, the number one grower, and started with a single barrel and hand seal.”
It was hard work but they gradually grew the business, trying different areas of Spain, until the country’s crops where hit by a fly infestation.
The couple moved their business to Morocco and it has now been there for eight years. They have a free trade agreement with America and export a similar amount to the UK.
With the arrival of their first child, they moved back to England and started looking for a new challenge, while continuing to have a hand in Oloves.
Matt said: “That experience brought us into thinking that we needed something faster moving, a snack that was healthy. We wanted something a bit more fun.
“We realised that protein was the biggest trend in America, and they set the trends, so we started looking into protein bars.”
Hayley added: “I was making these balls in the kitchen, with different recipes, for the children. We tried to find some in the shops but no-one was producing them.
“Nobody can do the small balls. It is quite labour intensive - for every small ball, you could make a big one, which is what other companies do.”
They started The Protein Ball Co with a Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, then refinanced with an Enterprise Investment Scheme.
In the past year, the company has tripled in size in terms of employers and more than tripled its floor space.
The balls are soft, moist and easy to eat. There are six flavours, with two new additions planned from January. The production team makes and bags one flavour at a time, working 24 hours a day, four days a week, on 12-hour shifts.
Every ball contains dates as the base ingredient but there are three different clean protein sources - whey from grass-fed cows, free-range egg white and vegan plant-based proteins from organic rice and pea.
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of everything from repairing muscle to strengthening bones.
The protein balls are all natural, gluten free, wheat free, soy free and vegetarian, and two of the flavours are vegan. Stockists include Holland and Barrett, Planet Organic, Sourced Market and Ocado.
Natalie said: “We are still a small business, so we can still work to individual orders, but we have space to set up a second production line as we expand.”
And expansion is on the cards, as Hayley and Matt have lots of new ideas ready to roll.