I was 12 when I came up with my business idea – now it’s a success

Alex Brassill, co-founder of JNCK Bakery, tells us how school canteen cookies inspired him to create something just as delicious, with less sugar and fat.

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I used to love the rich, gooey cookies they served at the school canteen. So much so, I had my 12th birthday cake made out of them – my mother contacted the school directly to order a bulk delivery.

But even aged 12, I was aware that they weren’t good for me. My parents both worked in the medical profession, so I was gaining a respect for healthy living – and I could see the way the fat in the sweet treats turned the paper bags clear.

It was then that I decided that one day, I’d start a business and create a better version: a cookie that would taste delicious – with a gooey centre and the perfect crispy edging – but without all the fat and sugar.

An idea I wouldn’t grow out of

My fascination with food and how it is created carried on through school and college. It led me to study Biomedical Sciences at Newcastle University, before working in new product development for sports nutrition brands.

Meanwhile, there continued to be a genuine gap in the UK food market for indulgent, yet healthier cookies. Crisps, doughnuts, and other foods had all made great strides to reduce fat and sugar content, but the sweet cookies market seemed to be stuck in the nineties, still serving up greasy biscuits full of fat and sugar.

Protein snacks are getting more popular as the nation becomes more health conscious, but their positioning is very much about health and exercise, even bulking up – never as treats. We all need treats!

And so, as my career progressed, those school cookies sat in the back of my mind. Making a better version was still my mission!

Improving on a childhood favourite… with over 2,500 taste tests

In my late twenties, I decided to begin research and product development for my cookie idea. I worked alongside a team of PhD scientists and specialists in bakery and sports nutrition, combining traditional fresh baking methods with cutting edge sweetness modulation technology to replicate the taste of the delicious cookies I had loved as a child.

There were over 2,500 documented trials and taste tests to create the perfect end result. We ate a lot of cookies!

The result? JNCK cookies, which have 90% less sugar, 50% less saturated fat, three times more protein and five times more fibre compared to existing cookie products. Rated Non-HFSS (non-high fat, sugar, salt) with a nutriscore of zero, they use ingredients such as pea protein for satiation, prebiotic fibre for gut health, and perhaps most impressively, a bespoke low-sugar protein chocolate. They don’t include any palm oil.

From launching on Gopuff to winning awards

We launched on food delivery site Gopuff first, where we outsold some pretty established baked goods ranges – and over the last few months our cookies have started to be sold and served by foodservice operators and retailers all over the country.

We’ve exhibited at trade shows, we’ve dressed up as cookie monsters and given out cookies from our unique JNCK ticket machine, and we’ve taken part in really exciting pitches and podcasts. We’re continuing to innovate, with new products in the works.

This work is bearing fruit. We’ve won awards and been named as one of the region’s most exciting companies by Business Insider Northwest, and British Baker listed us as a top bakery launch in 2023. And the cookies are flying off the shelves!

Staying true to my 12-year-old self’s mission

My brother Sean has joined me on my journey – he was a trading manager in his previous role, so his strength is in business growth and strategy: we complement each other perfectly.

Sean and I are on a mission to make healthier snacking more fun. The demand is certainly there: nearly half of consumers say they want to avoid buying foods that contain added ingredients such as trans fats, palm oil and preservatives – but the barrier is often all the non-healthy choices available to us.

Fortunately, there is now government legislation against high fat, sugar and salt products, so we are perfectly positioned to grab a share of this market.

The food industry has to take more accountability for improving the nutrition of the nation – but that doesn’t mean people should be denied tasty treats. We believe we can remove 800 tonnes of sugar from the UK supply chain over the next three years – and that’s just the start!

I’d love to go back in time and tell 12-year-old me that I did it. I think he’d be pretty pleased.

Alex Brassill
Alex Brassill – JNCK Bakery

Alongside his brother Sean, Alex Brassill has developed low fat, low sugar, low salt, freshly baked cookies, inspired by the delicious snacks served at his school canteen.

JNCK Bakery
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