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A protein powder business goes from strength to strength with University support

Shaking up the protein powder market with its range of products, which includes crickets and plants, is the aim of Protein Rebel. The one-year-old company produces protein shakes using alternative, sustainable sources of protein and packaging, creating 100% natural powders and materials which are good for the body and planet-friendly. The products are free from any synthetic ingredients, whey or micronutrient blends.

Tim Boote was inspired to set up Protein Rebel during his travels in Africa. Tim, who has an MPhil in wildlife management from the University of Pretoria, had his first taste of insects in 2010 – fried termites which he describes as a “delicious beer snack”. On being made redundant in March 2019, he decided to pursue the consumption of insects as a business idea. Eating meat and farming animals is blamed for deforestation and greenhouse gas production; eating less meat is considered part of the solution and Tim believes that a substitution of insect protein could be vital.

Through his interest in cycling and running, he was aware that many people find whey-based products hard to digest. Knowing that insects are a high protein superfood, easy to digest, with a low environmental impact, prompted his decision to develop a range of products using insects and plants. 

One-stop solution

Tim was looking for knowledge and experience of food manufacturing and practical support to grow the business. Following a referral from the Cheshire & Warrington Growth Hub, the NoWFOOD premises at the University of Chester had everything he needed on one site: a commercial kitchen to develop products, specialist technical support, a sensory lab enabling feedback on how to improve his product, plus meeting rooms.

Business courses and key connections

Tim has undertaken free courses including Level 3 Food Hygiene and two business programmes, Innovation2Commercialisation (I2C) and the Business Growth Programme; he has also welcomed networking opportunities and been a speaker at networking events including our Business Growth Club.

Tim was sceptical about government support for start-ups, believing that applicants had to jump through many hoops with little eventual reward. However, he commented: “Since working alongside the Business Growth Programme and NoWFOOD, my opinion has completely changed. NoWFOOD has been a lifeline and I can’t recommend it highly enough to aspiring food entrepreneurs.”

He added that the team is easy to work with, giving practical advice and access to a start-up community for support. The University of Chester connection helped him access two university departments which are involved in insect protein research. “Getting in touch with these academics and ensuring they took my business idea seriously without the NoWFOOD connection would have been very challenging,” he said. “We have achieved some great coverage as we are using `new to market’ ingredients. Our sales are on target and I expect to continue with the student research projects that were postponed due to Covid-19.”

Award-winning progress

Reaching the finals of the Nourish Awards 2020, Protein Rebel won an award in the High Protein & Sports Nutrition Category for its `Banana Reload’ product. Three new products were also launched on-line in August, one of which, The Recover protein powder range, was recommended by Men’s Fitness. Tim and his products have also appeared on BBC’s The Customer Is Always Right earlier this year.

The Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Entrepreneurs, SMEs and pre-start businesses registered or trading in Cheshire and Warrington, meeting the eligibility criteria, can apply for support. Help is available from our team of Business Engagement Managers and access is also available to facilities at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science ParkRiverside Innovation Centre and the NoWFOOD Centre

If you are a business seeking access to facilities and expert growth support, contact the University of Chester’s Business Growth Team by emailing businessgrowth@chester.ac.uk.