Marleen Basart, founder of healthy snacking brand BitesWeLove, is a passionate foodie and mother of Puck (5) and Kobe (3), living in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

With her life always revolving around food, Marleen started working as a category manager at one of the largest supermarkets in the Netherlands following her university stint. Having always dreamed of being an entrepreneur, Marleen quit her job and started BitesWeLove. We chatted to Marleen about the healthy snacking category, breaking into the UK market and what’s next:

What made you want to launch a snack brand?

I think things started to add up when I found out that people on average eat about 7 times a day, that (good) taste is the most important reason (90%) why people choose to eat something and that most popular snacks taste amazing because they are high in fats, sugar and salt. Being a true foodie I saw a gap in the market for developing a healthier version of popular snacks by keeping fats, sugar and salt in check, without compromising on taste.

At BitesWeLove, we want to help people snack healthier by making snacks that you feel good about eating. It’s our way of shaking up the snack world, one bite at a time.

We found out that peas, beans and nuts are a perfect base for healthy and tasty snacks. Our Crunchy Peas contain 60% less fat than regular (veg) crisps, they are a source of protein, high in fibre, super crunchy and packed with flavour.

 How long have these been available in The Netherlands?

We launched our business about 5 years ago as a subscription service for healthy snacks, after which we started developing our own products. We started out with various nut mixes to which we added dried fruit, beans and chocolate. Two years ago, we launched our Crunchy Peas and they have by far been our biggest success, selling in all major retailers in The Netherlands. Our products are available at all larger business caterers, railway and petrol stations, various OOH outlets, all major supermarkets and e-commerce players.

Last year, during the first months of Covid-19 in The Netherlands, we pivoted our foodservice business and introduced a snackbox for companies: this way we made corporate gifting during the pandemic easier. Companies could order large quantities of gift boxes that we would then deliver straight to their employees’ homes. Because of this and our strong growth in retail, we managed to grow our company during one of the most difficult years over 60%.

Do you have a favourite flavour?

My favourite flavour is definitely our Crunchy Peas Sour Cream & Jalapeño. I find it almost hard to believe that we managed to get it this full of flavour while making sure it non-HFSS/ 60% less fat than comparable savoury snacks and completely vegan. It has the perfect combination of crunch, tanginess, savouriness and spiciness.

Do you have any plans to launch more flavours or any other brands?

We are actually launching Chocolate coated crunchy peas in September and a whole new range of crunchy veggie mixes in very exciting flavours like Nacho Cheese, Sweet BBQ and Sriracha. All non-HFSS and vegan.

What do you think have been the biggest challenges in launching a Fast Moving Consumer Goods brand?

Getting on the shelf at the national supermarket/multiples is an important step in launching a food brand, But the real challenge is making sure you build a loyal customer base and reach a good rate of sales. You generally don’t have the financial resources large multinationals like Unilever or Nestle have, so you need to find a retail partner who is willing to support you and believes in your brand and mission. Because you need time to build your brand, visibility in-store, promotional support and shelf space. The right partner is willing to help you achieve this.

We just launched at Sainsbury’s at their Taste of the Future bay, which has been an incredible soft and pleasant landing in the UK. They are extremely supportive, give us insight into sales data and really help grow your business.

Who would you say inspires you?

There are several amazing Dutch brands that have built an incredible business and have amazing impact beyond our small countries borders. Think of Naïf, Tony’s Chocolonely, Ace&Tate, Dopper and van Moof. They are all strong brands, challenging the status-quo within their category and led by great entrepreneurs.

Do you have any tips for other people considering launching their own food brand?

Get the product right. Make sure it is super tasty. That is always number one. Find yourself the right customer, a true partner, to launch your brand and products with. And make sure you solve a true problem for your consumer and customers/partners.

Why did you choose the UK market?

Liesbeth, my business partner and I would always go to trade shows in London Excel. And every time we would say; if we make it here, we can make it everywhere! The UK market is very large in terms of market size, but also snacking is really a part of the British culture (much more than it is in the Netherlands.). It is also a very competitive market, but we have invested heavily in product development, making sure our products are non-HFSS (or Nutri-Score A, which we use in the Netherlands) but still super tasty. We believe this combination of taste & health is unique and a true differentiator also in the UK market.

Where in the world do you plan to take BitesWeLove to next?

Everywhere, we’re going for world domination. All jokes aside, we are now mainly focused on the European market, but we do want to take BitesWeLove everywhere to make it easier for people around the world to snack healthier and feel good about eating.

For further information on BitesWeLove, see here