We're delighted to introduce Chloe - founder of nibs etc. - who has kindly agreed to share her story with the Food Waste Series!
Firstly, please introduce nibs etc. to us!
nibs etc. makes beautiful and delicious foods from ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away, to fight food waste and inspire others to do the same. Born out of a passion for minimising kitchen waste, food is prepared in such a way that nothing is wasted and everything appreciated; through upcycling leftovers, creating no waste recipes, and getting as much out of every ingredient as possible.
What was your inspiration for starting?
I think, in retrospect, that it has been a combination of things along the way. In that, we were brought up to finish what was on our plate. We were encouraged always to think about our purchases and never to buy what we did not need. My family might have hoarding tendencies, but because things are kept on a ‘just in case’ basis, what that also means, is that we try to make sure we get maximum use out of everything before we let it go. I became quite a frugal cook when living in my own after university, and it became a challenge to see how far I could push my ingredients, on a low budget.
Living in the States then made me painfully aware of the grossly oversized portions and food waste by the plate full, and California made me incredibly conscious of where my food was coming from and where it was going – my flatmate had a compost bin in the freezer and the ‘local council’ collected it weekly. When I moved back to Europe to live at home for a few months before taking off again for London, I found myself escaping the ever-persistent existential crisis in the kitchen. Noticing that inspiration for a meal or dessert, always came from:
a. What was in the fridge/pantry;
b. What was about to be thrown away; from egg whites to orange peels, slightly-aged frozen wonton wrappers and juice pulp.
All of these seeds subconsciously took root along the way, and lay grounds for what became the nibs etc. blog almost 3 years ago now, and nibs etc. Ltd, making fibre filled, juice pulp snacks and breakfast foods.
Why juice pulp?
Juice pulp is the ‘waste’ product – pulp – from juicing, which (typically) comes out the back end of a juicer. It is packed full of fibre and flavour, adds interesting texture to bakes and does NOT belong in landfill. By making something delicious and nourishing out of this ingredient that would normally be wasted, the mission is to inspire people to think differently about, and hopefully redefine, what ‘waste’ actually is.
What did you do before starting?
I have always worked in food, sustainability and hospitality in some way. Straight out of university I worked for a bean-to-bar chocolate company – an excellent decision, as it turns out - in San Francisco called TCHO. Following which, I worked for a sustainable knitwear company, then freelanced for Maltby Street Market and Farmstand amongst others.
What has the reaction been to your brand mission from customers and press?
Thankfully, incredibly positive! It is the constant reminder that what I’m doing has purpose, that nibs etc. is making a difference in the fight against food waste, and that is incredibly rewarding. The mission resonates with people, and when they discover that the product is also to their taste, it’s an incredibly exciting moment of realisation to witness.
How have you managed to build a community and what do you find the best ways of reaching people are?
Slowly and steadily. Engaging with people personally has been the best way for people to instantly grasp the concept and want to engage with it. From pop-ups, to supper clubs, markets and cooking demos. It’s incredibly rewarding to see that look of pleasant surprise when they realise that what they thought was ‘waste’ actually tasted delicious. And as a result of that, because food is so visual, Instagram has been a powerful tool to continue to engage the community that’s been grown offline.
What’s it like having a stall at Borough Market?
Still completely and utterly surreal! I could not have told you this time last year, that that is where I would be come the end of the year. And yet it has been just what was needed to engage with customers, build the brand, tell the story, and finally be able to supply the returning customers. Being part of such an institution with an entire community of passionate food-business owners, is both an honour and incredibly inspiring.
What is your proudest achievement from 2017?
It’s hard to pick one, so because they all happened in the same month, I’d have to say the month of September; for winning the Cotswold Fayre Food and Drink Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, WeWork Creator Award, and being approved to trade at Borough Market. Still feels like a dream.
What has been the biggest challenge in going it alone and starting your own company?
The mind games. Your mind can be the most incredible source of imagination. But it can also be your worst enemy. And going it solo means there isn’t that person to pick you up on the tough days, or even to be there on the good days when even the smallest achievements need celebrating.
What are your plans for 2018?
Many! Focus, scale and team. Juice Pulp Crackers are the focus, as they are unique, have never been done before and are very much in line with the growing demand for sustainable and healthy snacks. Production is currently the biggest challenge; to meet growing demand yet scale the production in such a way that is sustainable both for the business and equally as importantly, the environment, is a challenge. Particularly for something that has never been done before. And to help balance all these quickly moving parts, and get the product on all the independent retail shelves as quickly as possible, people. I hope to start to grow a team of fantastically driven, likeminded and complimentary individuals. That’s not too much to ask, is it
What do you anticipate the biggest challenges being?
The biggest challenge will be to scale. From scaling production of Juice Pulp Crackers, in a way that increases production while maintaining consistently sustainable standards from ingredient sourcing, to manufacturing to packaging. To scaling a team of equally passionate people; this is such a social mission that it would be silly not to get the people involved, and I am excited to do so.
What do you find most rewarding about nibs etc?
The reaction the pulp products get from new customers. While it’s incredibly rewarding to see something you have invented, designed, and handmade, sit on a shelf for all the world – ok the small London community – to see, it’s even better to be there at the time of trial; to witness the pulp prejudice, to pleasant surprise, passion for supporting the mission and even, on occasion, complete obsession with it all! Is a wonderful feeling.
What advice do you have for others who are looking to start their own business?
Don’t wait until you are ready, because you will never be entirely ‘ready’. And you have nothing to lose if you start. But you will have everything to regret if you don’t.
Enjoyed this blog? Let us know in the comments! nibs etc. juice pulp products can be found at Borough Market every Thursday, both Kings X and Islington Food Assemblies, and the crackers at vegan, packaging-free shop Hetu in Clapham, Good and Proper Tea in Farringdon, and e5 in London Fields. And hopefully many more soon!