Winner: Howard and Vivien Wong – Little Moons
Little Moons has become a household name in the last 18 months, with sales of the little ice cream mochi balls snowballing. But this was no flash in the pan – nor was it an overnight success story.
Sister-and-brother combo Vivien and Howard Wong quit careers at Barclays and JP Morgan over 10 years ago in a bid to start their own business. And their success is an inspiring tale of perseverance, skill plus a bit of lockdown luck.
The pair had grown up in an entrepreneurial family, spending years watching their parents build a successful bakery business. It was their mother who introduced them to traditional mochi and planted the seed that would grow into Little Moons.
Vivien then spent two years developing recipes and flavor combos before forming a partnership with Howard to launch the business officially in 2010. High-end restaurants were the test bed for a product completely unknown to UK consumers, but by 2015 the ‘Little Moons’ brand as it is known today was born, and retail listings at Ocado, Waitrose and Tesco soon followed.
By the summer of 2020, the business was generating sales of £ 10m, had invested in a state-of-the-art £ 3.5m factory in London and was growing at an impressive lick. But that viral TikTok hit – garnering an incredible half-a-billion views – changed everything for Little Moons and disrupted the entire ice cream category in the process.
An explosion of consumer demand led to an upsurge in retailer interest and few revenues. Tesco struggled keep freezers stocked as sales soared 700%, while new listings at Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda meant distribution points grew from just over 1,000 at the start of the year to almost 10,000 by the close.
It meant Little Moons added an extra £ 17.6m in value sales in 2021, with growth of 900% on the year before, according to The Grocer’s 2021 Top Products report. Sales have soared even higher this year, now reaching almost £ 50m.
Its success was capped in March this year when US private equity firm L Catterton bought a minority stake in the business, following a fiercely contested auction. The sale valued the brand at over £ 100m.
The Golds judges were impressed by Little Moons’ many achievements in the past year, but highlighted the “foresight” and “bravery” of the entrepreneurs to manufacture in-house which underpinned its premium positioning.
“Getting the product right is at the heart of their success,” said one judge.
“What a brilliant success story for a product that was essentially unheard of in the UK three years ago, with Howard and Vivien thoughtfully introducing consumers to mochi in a very modern way,” said another.
“It’s a true challenger brand case study: find a product people don’t know they want yet, package it in a brand that resonates, premiumise the category and create a new occasion for bite-size snacking in ice cream.”
- Harris Aslam – Eros Retail
- Sony Bihal – Time Wholesale Services
- Mark Livings – Lyre’s
- Sean Ramsden – Ramsden International