The Turmeric Co.

Read time: 4 mins        Added date: 23/11/2023

Read the fascinating story behind one of the five Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank Black In Business beneficiaries. What are the challenges in launching a brand in a new product category to getting it stocked on the supermarket shelves, and how will this initiative help them build on their success?

How it began

As a young professional footballer trying to overcome career-threatening knee injuries, Thomas Robson-Kanu was almost out of options. Having had surgery and ongoing unpleasant side effects from prescription medication, he hit the local library with his father, Rechi, to research natural alternatives. Thomas firmly believes in the Hippocrates quote: “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”

After looking into foods and spices from different cultures, Rechi created an elixir from turmeric root and other raw functional ingredients, which saw Thomas become pain-free within weeks of taking daily shots of the blend. With two-and-a-half years of discomfort behind him, he could resume playing.

Many people have helped Thomas along the way, but none more so than Rechi, who’s still playing a vital role in the business. “He was the one who ferried me everywhere for football training and games. He also toiled away in the kitchen to create the blend and then made it for me every three or four days for a decade. So when you talk about heroes, that level of commitment and consistency is humbling for me as a son,” he reflects.

The lightbulb moment

After buying an alternative shot from a supermarket in the summer of 2016, Thomas realised the high fruit juice content and less than 1% turmeric meant it wasn’t the fresh and functional product he was used to. It was a refreshing drink rather than one with any health benefits.

Through reading numerous studies into the spice’s properties, it became apparent there was a huge gap in the market for an effective unprocessed alternative.

Discussions with manufacturers resulted in Thomas and Rechi being told making such a natural product at scale was unviable. So, they spent the next two years developing their kitchen recipe to produce in large quantities themselves at a bespoke facility.

In 2018, The Turmeric Co. launched as a direct-to-consumer brand. They were soon inundated with customer testimonials that reflected the experiences of Thomas and his friends/family members who’d benefitted from the original recipe.

The only functional shots backed by science

The business needed more than delighted customers, though. Working with a research partner at Nottingham University, they conducted the first clinical trial to examine the anti-inflammatory properties of their turmeric shots in professional footballers.

The results were published in May 2023. One of the key findings was that twice-daily consumption of a turmeric supplement reduced an inflammation blood marker and subjective muscle soreness in elite male footballers following match-play.

Educating more people and organisations about the clinical backing is an ongoing process. However, The Turmeric Co. now partners with over 20 elite sports teams across the UK, including Brentford FC and Everton FC.

“Inclusivity and diversity are such an important aspect of the world today. Less than 1% of supermarket brands have Black or Multi-ethnic founders. Initiatives like this allow brands and individuals a platform to raise awareness and create opportunities. I think it’s brilliant.”

Thomas Robson-Kanu — Founder & CEO, The Turmeric Co.

Securing shelf space in Sainsbury’s

The Turmeric Co. also conducted in-depth customer research to shape its marketing and advertising. It uncovered people are buying for four reasons — immunity support, pain relief, energy support and performance.

This knowledge helped get the shots into 400 Sainsbury’s stores and online in October 2023 — the firm’s first foray into retail. The marketing launch gained over 1 million impressions, which boosted brand awareness, but Thomas wants to highlight the lack of Black-owned brands in the supermarkets.

While various reports have outlined the challenges faced by Black entrepreneurs (PDF, 9.8MB) in the UK, he believes the Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank initiative is a massive step in the right direction.

“Inclusivity and diversity are such an important aspect of the world today. Less than 1% of supermarket brands have Black or Multi-ethnic founders. Initiatives like this allow brands and individuals a platform to raise awareness and create opportunities. I think it’s brilliant,” he says.

Success is a team effort

Plans are already in place to capitalise on the £100,000 worth of TV advertising on Channel 4 when it airs in early 2024. These include driving education and awareness of the products’ benefits, securing more distribution channels and launching new marketing initiatives off the back of the ad campaign.

Beneficiaries also get a six-month mentoring programme from DOES, which Thomas is sure will upskill the people in the business and further develop them as a team. Topics covered include supply chain resilience, marketing and sustainable growth principles.

Thomas knows that opening doors requires the right mindset. He stresses the importance of not shying away in life and business, even if people think they don’t belong in a certain space as a Black or Multi-ethnic entrepreneur.

“The CEOs of multi-million pound businesses are just people. It’s vital to know that whatever you want to achieve is down to you. The only barriers are the ones you create for yourself. There’s an opportunity to impact the statistics and be the change you want to see,” he states.


Delivering game-changing advertising opportunities

Read more about the initiative and the other beneficiaries and what they hope to gain from the Black In Business initiative.

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