Branson backs Smarta Start Up Loans recipient Sweetpea Pantry

With a mentoring package up for grabs and the opportunity to pitch to the super-entrepreneur, Richard Branson, along with a judging panel of foodie giants, Virgin Start Up’s Foodpreneur Fest attracted 318 entries from the UK’s newest and most exciting food startups.

The short-list of 8 finalists battled it out, each presenting a short video pitch to the panel of judges, which included Ella’s Kitchen founder and O2 Smarta 100 judge, Paul Lindley, Melissa and Jasmine of Hemsley + Hemsley and Mina Holland, Editor of Guardian Cook, along with Sir Richard Branson himself.

Each judge considered the two finalists in their category and chose the winner on the grounds of the most exciting and innovative brand that they felt would benefit the most from winning.

Winning was definitely ‘sweet’ for Sweetpea Pantry and Sweet Virtues, that won the ‘Most Loved Kid’s Food’ and ‘Best Healthy Food Business’ respectively. 

Philippa Askan and co-founder Tanya Mitchell of Sweetpea Pantry offers nutritious, easy bake-at-home kid-friendly recipes packed full of super ingredients, combining two trends of home baking and healthy eating.

With a Smarta Start Up Loan, Sweetpea Pantry were able to kickstart their business with £9,900 of funding and received hours of face-to-face mentoring from one of our award winning mentors. 

Paul Lindley of Ella’s Kitchen, who himself is a judge in this year’s O2 Smarta 100 Awards, commented “Sweetpea Pantry really stood out for me. Capturing children’s imagination in the kitchen is really important in educating the future generation about healthy eating. Philippa has big ambitions for her brand and with the mentoring and advice she’ll now receive, I’m sure Sweetpea Pantry is set for big things.”

Sweet Virtues’ Carey Davis-Munro, 47 is an ex-PE teacher and avid Yogi so her superfood truffles are the perfect sweet treat that is good for you. Each Sweet Virtues truffle contains more than five super food ingredients, individually chosen for their unique nutrient profile and health benefits.  

Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley, authors of The Art of Eating Well, said;

“Sweet Virtues offers a unique proposition, packing truffles with superfoods, and offering health-conscious consumers the perfect delicious, guilt free treat. We’re excited to be part of Foodpreneur and give these exciting startups the opportunity to succeed at a time where food is big business.”

Ben Mason, 33, won the ‘Most Exciting New Brand’ award for Proper Beans – a premium range of fresh baked beans. Ben grabbed the judge’s attention with his artisan business that puts craftsmanship at the heart of baked beans. The award will give Ben valuable support to drive the development of his brand.  

Ben said “To receive this award in only the second week of our business is unbelievable. We’ve already secured £25,000 investment with Virgin Start Up and will now be given the support and mentoring to allow us to take the exciting next step. Winning the Foodpreneur award and receiving recognition for the judging panel is an incredible achievement and just the start of the journey for Proper Beans.” 

Proper Beans were also awards ‘People’s Choice’ generating the most buzz on Twitter throughout the live event, receiving an additional £1,000 investment for the business. 

The winner for ‘Tastiest Startup’ is a pioneer on London’s street food scene. Matt Paice, 41 set up Killer Tomato in December 2013, focusing on bringing fun and excitement to vegetarian food. Matt bucks the healthy eating trend with his ‘vegetarian food that’s bad for you’.  

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said: “Britain is living through a golden age of entrepreneurship with almost 5million small business operating in the UK. At the heart of this are innovative food startups which are popping up all over the country.

"The Foodpreneur finalists all demonstrated innovation in their business and it’s been wonderful to meet the bright minds, and talented chefs, behind these ideas. The winners really stood out for their ingenious businesses."

Did you miss the event? All the finalist pitches from Foodpreneur Fest can be seen on 


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