Exposing Barenaked Foods’ Journey To ‘World Domination’

Barenaked Foods was founded in 2011 by Ross Mendham, who after years of dieting and worrying about the food he was eating, decided that ‘enough was enough.’ It was time to do something about it…

Ross has a slightly unusual back-story, as he used to be a stripper for The Dreamboys. During his time with the male revue group, he was required to be constantly tanned, toned and ripped. The only way he could achieve his body-weight targets for work, and also as a competitive bodybuilder, was to cut out carbohydrates. 

Ross admits that he has always found weight loss ‘especially difficult’ due to his love of pasta and rice. He thought ‘there must be a low fat, low carbohydrate version of the foods that he craves and loves – especially pasta!’

Sadly, after hours upon hours of trawling through the internet, searching supermarkets and health food shops, he had no success. However, after further research, he discovered konjac, a food crop grown across south-east Asia.

Konjac (‘Shirataki’) noodles can be created by harvesting fibre from the konjac root by mashing it down into a flour, before mixing it with water and calcium hydroxide to create a gel which can be cut into strips. 

The entrepreneur decided that he would make this food available in the UK, so he created his own recipe with a blend of konjac, soybean and oatmeal flour to give his noodles a texture similar to traditional rice noodles. His recipe had no fat, sugar, dairy or gluten and was low in carbohydrate — and so… Barenaked Noodles were born!

Ross was given initial funding from his future father-in-law, to get the business started. He travelled to the Chamber of Commerce, in China, to find out more about noodle manufacture. 

The language barrier was difficult but he knew that he had to find a factory which met UK food production standards. His patience paid off when he found the ideal place to produce his own style of konjac (or shirataki) noodles.

However, life was about to change even more, when Ross appeared on the BBC television show Dragons’ Den in August 2013. He pitched his idea for the low-carb, versatile pasta alternative to Peter Jones, Duncan Bannatyne, Kelly Hoppen, Deborah Meaden and Piers Linney.

His pitch to the team of millionaire investors was an honest, an emotional one, and in response to his appearance on the show, he received hundreds of messages from viewers across the world, who watched and identified with his life experiences.

7 years later, the Barenaked Foods range now includes Barenaked Rice and Barenaked Protein Noodles, which are available to buy in Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Ocado and Amazon UK.

The Barenaked Foods brand can also be found in retailers across Ireland, Australia and the Middle East. Overall distribution has increased from 200 to 50,000 packets of pasta per week, with the business well on it’s way to being worth £4 million. 

Barenaked noodles and rice have also caught the attention of celebrities and influencers, who now enjoy them as part of a balanced/restricted diet or to aid their weight management plans. 

Current social media influencers, who are fans of the Barenaked Foods brand, include Bella Penfold (@bellapenfoldofficial), Ricky Knight Junior (@ricky_knightjr), Christine Fox Fitness (@fanny_foc_meh), LC Fit (@louiseec), Emily Eubank (@emilyeubank), Bobby Holland Hanton (@bobbydazler84) and Calum Best (@calumbest). 

“Since I first featured on Dragons’ Den it’s been an emotional roller-coaster and as with any business, it’s been challenging to get to the top. Even when you get investment, success is not guaranteed. But with hard work, we have managed to take Barenaked Foods to where it is today.

I’m extremely proud of where Barenaked Foods is in the marketplace now that it has established itself as a big player in our category. It’s not been easy though; I didn’t realise the industry I was getting into was going to be so hard to crack but my determination and passion together with mentoring from Peter Jones’ team and support from fellow company director Barry Gilham, enabled me to take the brand to where it is now. I’m extremely excited for the future and what other products we will be able to offer our consumers. I said ‘world domination’ when I got out of the den and that’s exactly what I want for Barenaked Foods!

Ross Mendham, Founder of Barenaked Foods

Although he admits to constantly working towards “world domination” with his business, the one thing Ross is most proud of is the birth of his son, Oliver-Jude.

You can find out more about Barenaked Foods here.