SAVEG: Maria Marling, Marysia Thompson
From its South Wales location, SAVEG offers premium plant-based pies through retail and food service channels
Names of founders: Maria Marling and Marysia Thompson
Location: South Wales
Date Launched: Business registered Feb 13th 2019; started shipping product Dec 2019
Number of employees: 1
Age of founders: Maria: 29, Marysia: 27
Which university, if any, did you attend? Maria: Swansea University – studied Business Management; Marysia: Cardiff Metropolitan University – studied Sports Development
Plant-based and sustainable, SAVEG pies have upgraded the humble pie into a premium product. Here, the founders, Maria Marling and Marysia Thompson, discuss how it happened!
Tell us what your business does:
We are on a mission to make veg the best it can be. For us, that's crammed into a pie packed with bold, adventurous flavours, all wrapped up in our unique SAVEG pastry.
Gen Zs and Millennials aren't looking for a steak and kidney pie: they are looking for a plant-based alternative that can offer maximum comfort, with big flavours, made by a brand that shares the same sustainability values as them.
We have four flavours:
My Thai – Thai Green Curry Pie
Hoisin Jack – Pulled Jackfruit Pie
Goan Then – Aromatic Curry Pie
Leeky Shroom – Mushroom and Leek Pie
We are distributing through both retail and food service channels.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Marysia is 100% vegan but I always struggled. Being brought up on a ‘meat and two veg’ mindset is incredibly difficult to get out of. The struggle is that I want to eat vegan but there is a lack of full-flavoured, comfort/convenience vegan food. The answer – pies!
We started making them in our home kitchen in Cardiff and sold them at farmers’ markets, which validated that we had a fantastic product that people needed.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We did our research to validate that there was an opportunity in pies.
As of Jan 2020, 600,000 Brits are now following a vegan diet. This is driven by Millenials and Gen Z. As of 2018, the pie market was valued at £1.2bn.
This new generation of pie eaters aren’t looking for steak and kidney pies, but new, bold, innovative flavours instead.
What were you doing before starting up?
Previous to SAVEG, myself and Marysia had a protein ball company called PHIT, which we learnt a lot from.
Before that, I worked for Red Bull in the On Trade and Marysia worked in field sales for brands such as Evian and Red Bull in the Off Trade.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
We have always been entrepreneurial: myself making money from the age of 10, washing cars and carol singing door-to-door with my guitar. Marysia’s father is a successful businessman and always inspired her to start her own business.
How did you raise the money?
Through an article we had published, we met three Welsh angel investors with 30 years of food manufacturing experience each. They invested £200,000 in us to start the business and have been instrumental to its set-up.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We sell through two channels: food service and retail. We are positioning the brand as a premium product as our focus is on quality. This is by using fantastic vegetables and our unique SAVEG pastry recipe.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Making the pies in our home kitchen to making them in a factory was more challenging that we initially thought. Particularly the pie shape: at home, we were using tins from a bakeware shop and hand-moulding them. These tins could not fit into our pastry machine so we had to get tins specially made, which took over three months. This is not time you want to waste, from a cash flow perspective.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Selling into Suma Wholefoods. This has really validated our branding and product.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Speak to everyone – shout about what you’re doing! The daughter of your 84-year-old next door neighbour could be the head buyer for a leading supermarket. Every conversation is an opportunity!
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
To have expanded our range by offering more plant-based products and to be a leader in plant-based food innovation.
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