The author of children's nutrition books, Karmel runs a foodservice and retail business with a turnover totalling about £20M a year. She also presents a children's cookery programme on BBC TV and runs a business selling utensils and feeding equipment aimed at the young children's market.
Karmel, who first introduced a range of readymeals into Sainsbury four years ago, said: “I had worked with Marks & Spencer and Boots on ranges. Then, I decided it was time to do my own-branded range, which was scary.
Gap in the market
“But I believed there was a gap in the market for foods for very young children. Regulations are very tight in that area. The food has to be almost organic and it is hard to make it taste good.”
She funded the food business from book royalties and now has 10 stock keeping units in 450 Sainsbury's branches. She has also gained listings for the ready meals in retailers Morrisons and Waitrose. All ready meals are manufactured by Yorkshire-based Pro-Pak Foods.
Karmel also sells branded sauces, also supplied by Pro-Pak, dried pasta from Pasta Lensi, a new range of chilled purées, and a Disney co-branded range of children's snacks in collaboration with Lightbody Ventures.
The snacks range is being rolled out in Tesco as well as being available in Asda, Waitrose and Sainsbury.
Karmel said: “The snacks are proving hugely successful; it is one of Tesco's biggest launches ever in the category. We are also exporting them to Hong Kong and plan to go into South Africa next, before moving into other markets such as the Middle East and Australia.
“We have a WalMart listing for the some of the equipment range, and eventually hope to sell food there too, although another operator has the licence for Disney snacks there.”
Karmel also said she would be launching a major new children's food range next Spring, in a previously untried area. Details were being kept under wraps.
The company also now has a substantial foodservice business, supplying customers including Wetherspoons and Butlins, through foodservice giant Brakes.
Karmel still has 100% ownership of the business and plans to keep funding its continued growth without outside investment for the foreseeable future. But she said: “There may come a time where I look for funding to finance an acquisition for example.”