Last year, SRSLY founder Andy Welch told The Successful Founder that keto isn’t “a fly-by-night fad, it’s an ambitious food movement that’s currently tracking as the No.1 global food trend.” He backed this assertion by noting “the NHS now employs 50+ ketogenic clinicians”.
The ketogenic diet involves consuming very few carbs and a high amount of fats to help keep blood glucose levels low, forcing the body break down fats for energy (a process called ketosis).
The standard ketogenic diet typically comprises 70% healthy fats (avo, nuts, fatty fish, butter, cheese), 20% protein and 10% carbs (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta).
The diet comes with a number of health benefits, mostly notably weight loss and lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes because it allows the body to maintain blood sugar levels at a low but healthy level. However, it’s not recommended for type 1 diabetes, whose insulin is either absent or impaired. This disrupts the ability of the body to use carbs effectively, and in turn, causes sugar levels in the blood to spike.
In fact, Sara Garland, founder of The Daisy Garland Foundation - a UK registered charity working to support children with drug-resistant epilepsy and their families - believes thousands of children could benefit from a ketogenic diet.
Set up in 2004, the Foundation - named after Sara’s six-year-old daughter who died suddenly from a rare and complex form of epilepsy - has funded a number of ketogenic dietitians/dietetic support workers in NHS hospitals across the UK. According to Garland, she has seen evidence of the keto diet not only reducing seizures in children but promoting a better sleep and thus boosting their boosting quality of life.
The Epilepsy Society, however, has cautioned the diet may not work for everyone. And while the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) - which vets the effectiveness of treatments offered on the NHS - has also warned of possible side effects, it suggests doctors should consider the ketogenic diet when children with epilepsy fail to respond to at least two prescription medicines.
On the right path
SRSLY’s journey to NHS provider actually started back in 2020 after aligning itself with The Daisy Garland. Nudge forward to 2022 and Welch was approached by Birmingham’s Children hospital looking for a one-stop low carb provider, which saw SRSLY setting up a package of generous price discounts and educational support literature. This led to the introduction of the Manchester Hospital Trust, with its bigger pool of dieticians and patients.
In April, SRSLY secured £500k from the East of England Regional Loan Scheme to support the company’s next stage growth. At the time, Welch said the funding was earmarked for product development, packaging innovation and beefing up sales and marketing initiatives.
It has also helped SRSLY Low Carb land the NHS national supply deal, and put it at the top of the pile when it comes to tendering for and supplying the whole of NHS UK - including Scotland - with its extensive cupboard of low-carb products.
“Securing NHS validation was a long, often frustrating process, but at the end of the day my young business’s proudest moment,” said Welch.
“This is an organisation that is slowly embracing ketogenic teachings (50+ inhouse ketogenic clinicians), so to collaborate with such a respected, like-minded nationwide entity is a real ‘we’re on the right path’ moment.”
Like so many brands, SRSLY Low Carb was born from personal circumstance. Sports enthusiast Welch had discovered keto to help with his energy endurance in one of the world’s most gruelling Iron Man races, along with his own depression demons.
However, while his body and health appreciated the switch, he still craved carb-loaded treats and missed the versatility of bread. At the time, the keto space was essentially filled “with overpriced and underperforming mixes, neon powders and gloopy frozen dough that missed the mark on taste and nutrition.”
Today, Hemel Hempstead-based Keeto Life has a growing team of nutritionists, bakers, athletes and health advocates producing a range of keto-friendly goods under its SRSLY Low Carb brand, including artisanal-style loaves, rolls, not cross buns, fruit loaf, pizza, Mediterranean style wraps, flour and bread mixes. The development of a keto pasta is in the works, while naan and garlic bread are ‘imminent’.
The company’s B2C platform supports 200,000+ customers seeking low carb foods for a variety of reasons, but according to Welch, 80% first came across the brand in their mission to tackle underlying obesity issues, while 50% are seeking to reserve type 2 diabetes.
“We’ve created a range of innovative foods that have disrupted the low-carb market, attracted a vocal loyalist community and delivered thousands of five-star reviews,” said Welch.
“Thanks to [the regional growth loan], our pioneering operation can truly capitalise on its first-to-market status.”
To underlie his belief in keto, Welch participated in a study that looked into pre-race nutrition strategies. While there is a mounting body of research into the impact of the ketogenic diet on exercise performance, what is currently missing is the voice of the athletes.
The study is part of Matthew Carpenter’s PhD project within the School of Life Sciences at Kingston University and investigates the role of ketogenic and low carbohydrate dietary interventions on health and exercise performance, in addition to addressing the role of acute supplementation in ketogenic athletes and the impact this has on substrate metabolism and exercise performance.
Apart from partaking in the research, SRSLY Low Carb does not stand to gain financially.
SRSLY is Sugarwise Certified, and all products are low in sugar and free from added sugar.
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Research project PhD
Research supervisor: Dr Owen Spendiff
School of Life Sciences, Faculty of Engineering, Computing and the Environment, Kingston University