Written by Andrew Seale
Brittany Charlton envisions a day when Ohh! is a household name akin to Mars or Cadbury. And it’s hard to deny she’s onto something. Ohh! Foods line of bites with flavours like Apple Pie and Chewy Cookie are free from the eight priority allergens (like peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, etc.). It’s in-step with society’s trend towards healthier grab-and-go snacks.
“I realized that's what was missing in the marketplace says Charlton who started the company last year. “Snacks that are completely allergen-free.”
The idea was spurred by Charlton’s own allergies, developed in her teenage years. “It sprung up on me and really changed my life because you can't just go to the store and purchase any product,” she explains. “You have to really be sure that it's allergen-free or you could have an attack and your throat will close.”
While in the midst of her Law Clerk studies at Durham College in 2016, Charlton started experimenting with lactose-free hot cocoa and ice cream. She brought the idea to the FastStartDC entrepreneurship program, which helped her get the first iteration of Ohh! off the ground.
“It was just all test products that led me to where I am right now with my current product,” she says. “Once you launch one product, you learn along the way you're pretty much able to launch another one… it takes a couple of tries to get it right.”
Since launching her first products she’s made a series of connections including her mentor who works in branding at Starbucks. She says her mentor has helped inspire her to push her product towards larger retailers.
“I’ve found a lot of people want to help you as a startup, it's just about reaching out to them,” says Charlton. “No one can help you build your business but you, but they definitely have little pockets of information that you can use.”
She’s since brought Ohh! Foods to York University’s YSpace innovation hub in Markham.
“They've connected me to so many more mentors that I wouldn't be able to connect with,” she says. “It's just good to be with other entrepreneurs and find out what their struggles are, a lot of the time we're able to help each other.”
The company recently rebranded from Ohh! Products to Ohh! Foods. The bites have been re-launched and theres a “couple more” things in the pipeline. “We’re just figuring out when's the best time to launch them.”
Charlton says she’s confident the timing is right. And she knows the allergen-free product is in demand – that’s the constant struggle, keeping up with demand. But with the rebrand in place, she seems to feel more confident in her vision to make Ohh! a household name.
“I really understood the pit of my business and why we're doing it and why we're so unique,” she says. “Allergen free was what set us apart – but I think owning that is what I needed to do.”
Photo Credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)