Getting a product stocked in a major department store is a serious achievement. But just two years after launching Jealous Sweets, Taz Basunia and Imran Merza have manage to get theirs stocked in London’s big three – Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and most recently Harrods.
The guys launched the company after spending their early careers working in finance – Basunia worked for accountancy firm PWC and Merza worked as a trader with Merrill Lynch.
But the independence of entrepreneurship soon beckoned. The guys came up with the idea of Jealous after Merza struggled to find vegetarian sweets for a girlfriend he was seeing at the time. At the same point, Basunia had been considering buying an online sweets retailer to take it upmarket.
They developed the idea for a range of grown-up sweets, with no artificial flavours and colourings, and no gelatine or gluten. Although natural sweet brands did exist before, Basunia says that they were all marketed in clinical and boring packaging.
“We always planned to go down the premium route,” Basunia says. “In supermarkets you don’t have the same brand loyalty as in department stores – you’re more likely to just pick whatever’s cheapest.”
A big part of this focus was getting the branding right. Merza and Basunia spent a year carrying out market research across the world, and developing the product.
Their colourful, premium-quality packaging and brand identity is the work of creative agency B&B, who have worked with brands like Innocent, Mars and Bulldog.
They sent out product brochures to buyer after buyer, but after no replies and dozens of ignored phone calls they decided to approach them directly, in person.
“It’s a lot harder to ignore someone when they’re standing in front of you,” says Basunia.
After months of perseverance they got their first break when buyers at Selfridges agreed to stock their sweets. It wasn’t all plane sailing though – they were left scrambling to pick up the pieces when a third party error meant their first big delivery failed to show up on time!
Since getting stocked in Selfridges they have expanded their reach to other big department stores, including Harrods, where they launched this month. Their products are also available in Bon Marche in France and luxury stores in the Middle East.
A chance encounter led to an opportunity to stock their products in Monaco’s swanky Hotel De Fairmont Monte Carlo – underlining the importance of networking in getting yourself noticed!
Working in very close partnership with just one other person can often be difficult, but Merza says they’ve never had any really serious bust-ups.
“It helps that we’re a complimentary fit,” he says. “I’m responsible for sales and marketing, and Taz does ops and finance.”
In the future, their immediate focus is a European expansion, with plans to increase sales in France, Spain, Germany, Russia and the Netherlands this year. Given that Jealous is unusual in being a premium, vegetarian sweets brand, there is massive potential for expansion in parts of the developing world with large vegetarian populations – particularly the rapidly growing economies of India, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
In the long term they hope to become more than a sweets company. With its transferable name and eye-catching marketing, we could see the Jealous brand adorning all sorts of luxury products in the coming years.
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