ElevenLabs and our Founder Amy Rose Hancock have been feature in Vogue!
This article has been re-published here. For the original article visit the Vogue website here. Written by ANGELICA XIDIAS.
ElevenLabs, an innovative business that produces 100 per cent vegan plant-based protein powders, made with real food ingredients, was founded by University of Adelaide graduate Amy Hancock, after she discovered just how difficult it was to travel with nutrient-dense foods and supplements when on the go.
With a First Class Honours Degree in Pharmaceutical and Chemical Engineering, and experience working in research and development at Ernst & Young and a national skincare company, before moving to a process, production and project engineer and systems analyst role, Hancock decided to found ElevenLabs, a now award-winning brand.
Here, the young entrepreneur shares her story and gives Vogue an insight into the intricacies of launching your own business, building a respected brand, and the challenges that come with working within the wellness industry.
How did you come to the decision to launch ElevenLabs?
“ElevenLabs emerged from a personal need of mine. From a young age healthy eating was part of my lifestyle thanks to growing up on a farm and having a mother who was a chef.”
“Early on in my career, I was a fly-in-fly-out engineer. Imagine a remote desert environment where it was almost impossible to get healthy food to suit my dietary intolerances. So I started bringing healthy nutritious ingredients to site. This left little room for my clothes. Some of my colleagues expressed similar issues so when they saw my initial prototype, they started buying it from me. The challenge was how much nutrition could I fit in my suitcase. Thus the journey began formulating the most nutritionally dense plant-based powders possible.”
What steps did you take once you had decided to make it happen?
“I spent 12 months in research and development, sourcing and testing the most nutrient-rich ingredients available. It was important to use low temperature manufacturing methods, like freeze drying, to lock in nutrients. I wanted to formulate something that was truly healthy, so I used only real, natural ingredients and avoided fillers to simply bulk the product. ElevenLabs is offering something of greater quality and higher value than other products on the market. Making sure the product was dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, sugar and sweetener-free was also vital to a superior quality.”
“Formulating a great tasting product without adding sugars and chemical sweeteners was a challenge. Thankfully due to understanding flavour and working with chefs, I was able to design a great tasting product using natural ingredients. After I had completed my product development, I built an e-commerce website, then took the concept to social media for launch.”
What's your overarching wellness philosophy?
“We can make better food choices when we have knowledge about what we eat and how it affects us. This can help us live a better life, both physically and mentally. It’s incredibly easy to “accidentally” consume sugar, additives and salt without realising. Eating the right foods can prolong your life and stave off some common diseases. This is why I eat clean foods, and avoid food additives, sugars and sugar alternatives, and pre-prepared meals where possible. I also enjoy getting active in the outdoors and practising mindfulness and self-awareness.”
What are some of your favourite go-to recipes?
“I love flavour and right now I’m into Middle Eastern-inspired dishes. It’s so easy to add spices like paprika, cumin and coriander to any dish for a flavour burst without the calories. I highly recommend the Ottolenghi Simple cookbook.”
“My go-to breakfast or snack when I’m on the go is my ElevenLabs Plant Protein and Super Greens powder blended with a banana and almond milk. It has eleven nutrient-dense ingredients including spirulina, ground chia seeds, spinach, matcha, cacao and pea protein to sustain me.”
What's your take on the current boom in the wellness industry? Are there any myths or half-truths out there you'd like to dispel?
“People are spending more than ever on their health, getting educated and holding brands accountable which is great. I think there is still a lack of understanding and transparency when it comes to the food industry.”
“One myth [is that] consumers believe the food they buy now is of the same quality and ingredients that were available to previous generations. Consumers place too much trust in food marketing and aren’t aware of hidden ingredients. Manufacturers use fillers and extenders in food products like meat, cheese, vegan products, supplements and ready-made meals to cut the cost by up to 10-to-30 per cent. Look out for things like maltodextrin, milk powder and milk solids in protein powders and other health food products. These are all common bulking agents. We don’t use any fillers or bulking agents in any of ElevenLabs products.”
“Another myth [is that] sugar-free options are healthy. There are a lot of sugar substitutes and chemical sweeteners used in food manufacturing so brands can claim to be “sugar-free”. As soon as I see this, I check the ingredients panel to see what other ingredients they may have used to sweeten the product that aren’t necessarily good for me. Substitutes like mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol and erythritol are a class of sugar alcohols that can cause gastrointestinal distress for some people. We don’t use any sugar substitutes or chemical sweeteners in our products.”
Are there any health trends you think will come about in the next 18 months? And why these?
“ElevenLabs is constantly formulating new products and actively assessing emerging trends. The recent legalisation of hemp as a food source, combined with its nutritional properties means there is a world of possibilities to creatively explore new products. Hemp is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids and fibre with studies showing it beneficial for mood stability, heart health and inflammation. ElevenLabs is focusing on unique formulations in food and beverage using hemp.”
“With our on-demand society, personalised nutrition will become more available over the next 18 months. Big data combined with studies of interactions between food and genes (nutrigenomics) mean that consumers will want health and wellness products designed uniquely for them. Our challenge at ElevenLabs is realising how to do this at scale.”
What's the hardest part about owning your own business?
“The noise in the food industry around marketing makes it difficult for premium quality, healthy products to compete with cheaper alternatives that likely deliver less nutrition per dollar. Finding investors in Australia is also a challenge.”
What's the best part about owning your own business?
“Hearing positive stories from my customers how ElevenLabs’s products have helped them in ways I never imagined.”
How do you stay motivated to get everything done?
“Reminding myself I am channelling my interests and knowledge into something I’m passionate about that makes a difference.”
What's next for Elevenlabs? Are you working on anything exciting?
“ElevenLabs has extensive knowledge in food engineering and product development, so we have established a formulation arm. Currently, we are formulating unique products for clients so they can bring their ideas to market. We are excited at the possibility of transforming inferior looking fruits and vegetables into value added products. At ElevenLabs we look forward to a future where healthy eating is easy and available to all.”