When I received an email asking if I thought the two sneaky veg kids might like to try some new-on-the-market Greek-style frozen yoghurt lollies, that just happen to contain fruit, we of course jumped at the opportunity - and I mean, who wouldn't. Free ice lollies - um, yes please!
It turned out that we lived close by to the two lovely ladies, Meriel and Lucy, behind Claudi&Fin, so we met up one morning and despite it being quite soon after breakfast the two little Rs tucked into their ice lollies with gusto. In fact they enjoyed them so much that we had to stop off at Sainsbury's to buy some on the way home.
And why not? As ice lollies go, in fact as snacks go, they are a great option. They do of course contain some sugar (although 80% less than their competitors) but other than that the ingredients are puréed fruit (mango or strawberry), Greek yoghurt, milk, water, lemon juice and not a great deal else. As hiding fruit and vegetables in food is something of a priority for me it gets my vote. My four-year-old son R still won't eat a single bit of fruit and I was pleased that he was happy to eat this even though we openly talked about it containing mango in front of him. There was a point when he would have thrown it down in disgust at this revelation.
Listening to Meriel and Lucy talk about their business was really inspiring and anyone who is interested in food, or had an idea for a food business will enjoy their story. Both new mums who were soon to return to work - one full time and one four days a week, the ladies met at a playgroup and discussed their dreams of finding a way to use their skills, earn money and spend more time with their children. It was Lucy who first started making lollies, in fact she'd been making them ever since weaning her daughter Claudi (hence the name of the business), starting with just puréed frozen fruit and then adding yoghurts when she was a bit older. Meriel, who loves cooking, particularly with her three-year-old son Fin, turned out to be the perfect business partner.
Three years later, after many trials, a failed rhubarb yoghurt lolly and a disaster with chocolate (they both assured me with a slight grimace that the chocolate one really, really wasn't good and I got the impression that they'd really tried to make it work so I'm going to trust them on that one) they hit on a recipe that they were happy with and entered it into a competition with StartUp Britain for a new food idea for Sainsbury's.
"We were flabbergasted to have been selected", said Lucy. "Out of 400 entries, only 10 were shortlisted and only four of those were offered contracts." Further to that they were offered the longest contract with the broadest range of stores. The lollies have been available in 300 Sainsbury's stores for almost two weeks now and so far sales have been a third over target. The lollies cost £2 for a box of four at the moment, so 50p per lolly, which is certainly less than buying a lolly or ice cream from our corner shop or park café.
Personally, I'm delighted for them. It's great to meet two mums who shared an idea, had a vision and have actually made it happen. Now we just need the sun to come out for them!
Meriel from Claudi&Fin has shared with me her favourite sneaky veg recipe, leek fritters, which I'm going to post shortly as a separate post.
Disclaimer: we were given some Claudi&Fin ice lollies to review and received no payment for this post.