A chicken full of e-numbers changed my life: here’s how

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I always knew I wanted to start my own business but had little idea what shape this business might take. I set off to university to study a Business Enterprise degree to nurture my entrepreneurial vision but jumped ship after a year. I figured 8 hours of lectures a week was a poor return on a mountain of student debt.

The lightbulb moment

Convinced that getting my hands dirty in the real world would be the best way to unearth a great idea, I took up my father’s offer to join the family meat business and got stuck in.

It was during a run-of-a-mill meeting with a client that my inner lightbulb went off.  The highly enthused restaurant owner insisted on showing me his novel steamed chicken that was a huge time-saver.   Whilst the basic idea was excellent,  the execution left a lot to be desired.  The chicken was watery and riddled with artificial nasties and unsavoury e-numbers.   What if I could create a clean deck alternative? 

Making it happen

It took some food-grade pouches, a slightly battered Tesco van, several second-hand freezers and many months trundling up and down the motorways to find the customers for my game-changing steam-cooked chicken. Gold Standard Nutrition (GSN) was up and running, albeit at 56mph! 

I have rebooted frozen ready meals by refusing to accept great taste, convenience and nutritional integrity are mutually exclusive ambitions.  Today’s healthier living society wants delicious, protein-rich meals made with quality ingredients that don’t rely on high salt and sugar to make them edible.  

Healthy living

I believe strongly that we work best when we’re involved in categories that are close to our hearts.  A workout fanatic, it made sense that any brand I launched would be aimed at the nation’s growing network of independent gyms.  I wanted to be the first to meet the demand for healthy ready to go meals to be sold inside gyms.

Finding the pot of gold

Our best-selling, 6 minute microwavable meals pots (Pots of Gold) struck a chord with the gym owners who were looking not only for additional secondary income streams but for innovative ways to combat the nationwide gym chains with strong points of difference.

Today my business operates in over 450 independent gyms nationwide providing the perfect pre or post workout meal and options to takeaway for later. This has helped build coffee stations and seating areas for members to socialise as we have seen gyms become more or more of a social environment.  

Hard lessons

It’s not been easy.  Three years into my business, I needed to scale back as I had trusted too many gyms with credit that didn’t pay; I was forced at 24 years old to make my colleagues (and friends) redundant.  But I’m very proud that twelve years down the line my seven-figure business feeds the Royal Marines, are the chosen food supplier to Chequers, work with the NHS healthy frozen food vending initiative, and we stock and support over 450 independent gyms. We’ve achieved a turnover of £5 million with only a team of 4 full time staff, we’ve sold over 9 million meals to date, we are debt free as a business and never had a single bit of funding.

Final thought

I’d say to anyone reading with entrepreneurial ambitions – find a way to make it happen.  Whilst the lows are so much more personal, any win, however small, means more than you can possibly imagine!

GSN Craig Allen
Craig Allen - Founder of GSN

Over the last 10 years, Allen has built GSN based on one simple idea – healthy food should be easy - and is now a leading challenger in the healthy frozen food market.</p> <p>

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