The Squirrel Sisters is a nickname which has stuck with Gracie and Sophie since childhood because squirrel rhymes with their surname ‘Tyrrell’. Together they have launched a selection of vegan friendly bars to dispel the myth that good food is boring and tasteless. We caught up with them to talk about their new bars and why they have such a huge plant based following.
Sophie isn’t a vegan and Gracie you class yourself as a ‘flexitarian’ so why did you want to make vegan snacks if neither of you follow this lifestyle?
Our bars are naturally vegan because of the ingredients we use. We never set out to specifically make a vegan product but what we did set out to do was to make was a healthy, natural product that uses delicious, raw, whole ingredients AND most importantly tastes amazing. We want people to feel like they are having a treat when they eat our bars (which is why our strapline is Treat Your Health) so taste has always been at the forefront of everything we create. The bars had to be gluten-free because Sophie has a gluten intolerance but the ingredients we use mean they are naturally gluten-free. They are suitable for lots of different lifestyles including dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and paleo.
Please tell us why and when you decided to go into business together.
We started a blog in 2014 as a way to stay in touch while on opposite sides of the world (Sophie was working at a branding agency in Singapore and Gracie was working in London in film and TV). We decided to start the blog because health, wellness, food and how it makes us feel has always been a huge passion of ours. As the blog started growing we made the decision to develop it further by launching our bars under our brand name Squirrel Sisters. Our bars were something we used to always make, way before we even considered starting a blog (Gracie used to make them at home for Sophie because of her gluten-intolerance when living together in London).
The bars have featured in Vegan Life and were The Vegan Society’s product of the month last year- so why is the vegan market so important to your product?
We have lots of lovely Squirrel Sisters fans that are vegans because they are a perfect dairy-free alternative to a sweet treat e.g. The cacao orange is like a Jaffa cake and the coconut cashew is like a dairy-free bounty. We get approached by a lot of vegan companies and publications because they have recognised that our product is a something vegans can eat and genuinely enjoy.
Why did you want to create something that was 100% natural? Do you believe in clean eating?
We wanted to make healthy fun and exciting and prove that healthy doesn’t have to be boring and tasteless. We wanted to create something using natural ingredients because that’s what makes us feel good, energised and satisfied. Our bars are 100% natural and have no added sugar as well as satisfying your taste buds so it’s a great combo J.
You tried different lifestyle and eating plans to find out how food affects the way we feel- please can you tell us a bit more about this?
Sophie has always had quite a sensitive stomach (she was diagnosed with a gluten-intolerance in 2012) so for her it’s very much about figuring out what works for her body and knowing which foods make her stomach react and which foods make her feel good. For Sophie trying different lifestyles gave her a clearer indication of what might be causing the stomach problems.
You both love nuts, which are one of the key ingredients in the bars so what are the benefits of including nuts in your diet?
Everyone is different but for us the reason we love nuts is because they are a good source of protein keeping us fuller for longer as well as making us feel energised. A squirrel bar in the afternoon is a great little pick me up.
How did you settle on the four flavours?
As the bars were something we used to make at home way before we launched them as a product the flavours were very much what we liked. We made them because we wanted healthier alternatives to the well-known sweet treats out there so created ‘cacao brownie’ (like a chocolate brownie), ‘coconut cashew’ (like a bounty), ‘cacao orange’ (like a jaffa cake) and ‘raspberry ripple’ (like the ice cream flavour we all know and love).
Many other raw vegan bars are well over the 100 calorie mark so why did you aim to keep your bars under this threshold?
Portion control is still very important to a lot of people so we decided to split to 40g bar into 2 x 20g sticks to give people the option.
What is it like working with your sister? And do you have any advice for other siblings who want to go into business together?
It’s the best! We get to bring our passion to life and do it together, which has been an incredible experience; supporting each other through the ups and downs and being there for each other through more stressful times. The other amazing thing about working together is that we completely trust each other and have each other’s best interests at heart, which is invaluable in business.
Some advice we have for any siblings going into business together is to remember to listen and support each other. We were lucky because our passion and vision for what we wanted to do was perfectly aligned so making decision has been easy because we have always agreed on things. This might not be the case for everyone so before going into business together make sure you both want the same thing otherwise it won’t work.
What is next for you?
We have big plans for Squirrel Sisters and we will be launching new products later in the year so keep your eyes peeled.
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