Business Leader recently spoke to Janet Sawyer, the founder of LittlePod, a Devon-based vanilla business that is hoping to change the world.
What are the future plans for the company?
We have just celebrated our first decade in business, and within those ten years we have established ourselves as the leaders of the natural vanilla product industry. We have gained a reputation for quality, being responsibly sourced as well as being the voice for the ‘Campaign for Real Vanilla’. In 2018, we won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for our work. We will continue to drive the business forward for the next decade with our core values; sustainability, education, quality and innovation.
In the immediate future, we are heading to Japan! We will be a part of a trade mission with the Department of International Trade (DIT) in March. We have the intellectual trademark rights for our products in the country. In order to sell within Japan – you need to have that. LittlePod’s business ethos aligns with Ikigai, a Japanese concept that means ‘a reason for being’. The phrase indicates the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile – and for us, that is LittlePod.
What changes are happening at the company?
We are bringing in some new machinery to help expand our operation and the building is almost complete – it is a very exciting time for the business. The new machine was flown in from Milan and everyone involved in the company helped with the installation – all 11.5 tonnes of it! They have all been a part of the journey the business has been on over the lpast decade, and it is a celebration of our success. We are prepared for the next generation of LittlePod.
What are your plans?
I am stepping back as the Executive Chair of the business, and I have helped train up Olly Aplin to be our new CEO to take the company forward into the future. He is a young guy and this is a millennial business. He can now charge forth and make the company grow and promote our purpose – the ‘Campaign for Real Vanilla’. That is to help make more and more people aware of real vanilla and our role in the industry. We want to get the public to come on this journey with us and educate people on the benefits of using real vanilla.
How do you plan on spreading the message of real vanilla and its benefits?
It has taken ten years to get people in the West to understand that 97% of vanillin used in our food is artificial. It has taken a decade to establish the company and get the message out there about real vanilla. Before we started, it was discovered that we could lose real vanilla within a generation if we didn’t act on it. Our campaign and mission from the beginning has made a difference to the future of vanilla. We have created a community here in Devon – people and local businesses are aware of what we do – but the future is about spreading the message worldwide.
We have recently been to Tanzania, we are heading to Japan, and we are launching non-alcoholic versions of our product for the Middle East. Growing vanilla on the equatorial belts will have so many benefits including helping the local community, increasing reforestation on the equatorial belt, and helping climate change. We are building a global community to help people use real vanilla instead of vanillin.