Provide more education on food. Most customers do not know the difference between a best before date and a use by date. Best before dates refer to food quality and so food can still be consumed after this date. However, so many people are unaware of this so end up discarding food which is still perfectly good to use.
It has been estimated that each year, more than 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to more than 160 billion dollars worth of food thrown away each year. At the same time, in many parts of the United States, there is a crisis caused by people having limited access to healthy & affordable food options. The waste of food is not only a waste of money and bad for the environment, but it is also making vulnerable populations even more vulnerable.
Authority Magazine started a new series called “How Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies and Food Companies Are Helping To Eliminate Food Waste.” In this interview series, we are talking to leaders and principals of Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies, Food Companies, and any business or nonprofit that is helping to eliminate food waste, about the initiatives they are taking to eliminate or reduce food waste.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ella McKendrick.
Ella McKendrick is the founder of health food company, Nutribuddy. Ella dropped out of university in order to set up Nutribuddy, a company which specializes in selling natural, vegan shakes made up of wholefood ingredients. Reducing food waste is incredibly important to Nutribuddy, which is why they have started launching products which aim to tackle the problem head-on.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I had just started studying creative and professional writing at university.
During my time at both school and university, I struggled with eating breakfast. I would wake up at the last possible moment before class and grab whatever I could to eat whilst out and about. This would tend to be either a chocolate chip cookie or stale croissant.
I knew my situation wasn’t ideal; I wanted to eat healthier! I decided to look into other options and stumbled across meal shakes. These products claimed to be the answer, offering nutrition whilst on-the-go. However, when I looked at what was in them, I was dismayed to find so many ingredients, many of which I could not begin to pronounce. I thought to myself, these artificial ingredients cannot possibly be good for our bodies, can they?
I was frustrated that there were no natural shakes on the market and thought I couldn’t possibly be the only person who was interested in a natural alternative. That’s when the idea of Nutribuddy came to me — I could create my own natural shakes!
I took a risk and dropped out of university in order to pursue my business dreams. Setting up Nutribuddy was a long, hard process with a steep learning curve. However, I persisted and eventually I launched Nutribuddy Breakfast, a natural, vegan breakfast on-the-go.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company or organization?
I think perhaps the most interesting story is the story of how I set up Nutribuddy in my home and the unique challenges which it presented.
The business started from humble beginnings — within my home. I would mix up the shakes in my kitchen and package them up before the postman would collect them from my door.
Running a health food business entirely from home presented more challenges than I could have foreseen. As sales through the website started to pick-up, my life was my business with no separation between them.
I moved into the small spare bedroom in my house in order to make room for the piles upon piles of boxes which were starting to take over my house. Boxes were piled everywhere. They were in my living room — on the sofa, in front of the TV, in every inch of the space! The master bedroom and second spare room as well as cupboards also turned into storage facilities for products.
Plastic scoops dotted the stairs and spaces between the boxes, baffling me with their appearance. I would tidy them away and they would keep appearing. What was going on? One day I managed to catch the mystery scoop thief in the act. I heard a rustling in the master bedroom and peeked my head in to see the scoop box completely ripped open. My cat was rummaging around in it and I watched in amusement as she began trotting away with a prized scoop in her mouth.
It wasn’t long before I became overrun with tasks and was forced to expand the small team beyond myself and my partner. The new recruits came to work from my house each day, helping to pack up the boxes and label the packaging.
I was proud of how much we were growing but at the same time was daunted by the fact that I seemed to have lost my personal space and spare time to my fledgling business.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made with the business is probably not the most conventional!
As the business started to grow in my home, we received large deliveries of packaging supplies and product ingredients on pallets. The main problem was that my house had a steep driveway which meant pallet collection was very hard. Myself and my partner installed a winch at the top of the drive in order to assist with hauling up heavier pallets. We’d strap the end of the winch to a pallet-truck which had the pallet on top and the winch would pull the truck up the drive.
The winch was very handy but one day it was stretched to its limit with a pallet which weighed over a tonne. The pallet was half-way up the drive when the rope securing the pallet-truck snapped and the pallet went hurtling down the drive towards the busy main road at the bottom. My partner was quick-thinking and charged after it, pressing the button on the pallet-truck which forced it to drop its forks to the ground and stop the heavy pallet from rolling. It was quite a scary moment!
The lesson I learned was not to push anything to its limit. You should work smart and not hard. There are always other solutions to problems — you may just need to think outside the box. In this instance, we started splitting pallets over several to make them lighter.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
To me, being a leader means instilling confidence within a team. Those in a leadership role should nurture those around them and take the time to understand what techniques can get the best out of each individual as no two people are the same. For example, some people may prefer lots of support throughout a task whilst others may prefer to be left to their own devices and given feedback at the end.
I think that leadership is about a lot more simply managing people. I think it is also about problem solving in a calm and collected way. Creating a feeling of calm and positivity is very important for a team.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favourite quotes is “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans” by Allen Saunders.
It highlights the importance of making the most of each day and not always planning for the future. It is so easy to have your mind constantly in the future but that doesn’t equate to happiness as happiness occurs when you make a conscious effort to live in the moment.
These days I try to stay present as I admit I spent years planning for a future that would never come. The truth is that no one can plan for the future as life rarely goes to plan. Therefore look for opportunities in each day and I guarantee it will lead to a more fulfilling life.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. What exactly are we talking about when we refer to food waste?
Food waste refers to food that is discarded instead of consumed. This can happen at consumer level, retail level or even at supplier or farm level.
Can you help articulate a few of the main causes of food waste?
40% of food waste occurs at consumer level. This means 40% of food waste occurs by consumers throwing food in the bin. The main reasons for throwing away food include cooking too much or forgetting to eat something which then passes its expiry date.
Food waste at consumer level occurs mostly in high-income countries with an estimation 115 kg of food waste being generated per person per year in America and Europe compared to 11 kg of food waste per person per year in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In fact, the quantity of food waste in high-income countries is almost as high as the total net food production in sub-saharan Africa.
What are a few of the obstacles that companies and organizations face when it comes to distributing extra or excess food? What can be done to overcome those barriers?
A lack of storage and cooling facilities is a large obstacle in distributing extra food, as is improper storage and rough handling of goods, both of which occur frequently. It is estimated that 23% of food waste occurs during this stage of the food’s journey.
More infrastructure is needed to support large quantities of food being stored, as is correct training for all staff who handle food products in order to avoid damage to food. Food items could be more clearly marked so that delivery drivers know to handle them with more care.
Can you describe a few of the ways that you or your organization are helping to reduce food waste?
Nutribuddy has launched an exciting product this year which helps to reduce food waste.
Eco-PlantMilk is a powdered oat milk with a far superior shelf-life to traditional milks, even once opened. Whilst a standard milk (even vegan milk) has to be consumed within days of opening, Eco-PlantMilk lasts for several months. This leads to less food being discarded.
Eco-PlantMilk is available in 14-day supplies, meaning customers do not end up with excess product which they would struggle to consume within the best before date.
Feedback from our customers has been great. Several have emailed us to let them know that they were previously struggling to go through cartons of milk and were having to discard them. They were very pleased to have found Eco-PlantMilk as it was a great solution for them.
All products which we sell come with a several month best before date and are sold in manageable pack sizes.
We are passionate about reducing food waste at our factory as well. We never over-order ingredients. That way we can turnover products quickly, giving them the longest possible use by dates for consumers. This also means that in quieter periods, no ingredients ever have to go to waste. Ingredients are carefully stored following our in-depth processes.
Damages to food products in our facility are rare and on the odd occasion where an accident has occurred, we salvage as much of the food as we can for personal use. We have a ‘free to good home’ box for staff members which includes products that weren’t quite acceptable enough for retail. I am currently working through a lifetime supply of chia seeds as a result of a small hole in the package which deemed it unsellable to consumers. It’s a good thing I love chia seeds!
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help address the root of this problem?
I believe the root of the problem is the fact that we live in a throwaway society. It has become acceptable to throw things away without thinking about the consequences.
The best three things that we can do to get to the root of the problem are:
1. Provide useful tips on reducing food waste.
A positive direction for people is key. Therefore it would be good for guidance to be provided to consumers on easy ways to cut-down on their food waste. This would include: meal prep for the week ahead, purchasing items in smaller quantities, cooking smaller portions and more.
2. Provide more education on food.
Most customers do not know the difference between a best before date and a use by date. Best before dates refer to food quality and so food can still be consumed after this date. However, so many people are unaware of this so end up discarding food which is still perfectly good to use.
2. Emphasize the importance of reducing food waste.
People always want to know why something is important, therefore education on the negative effects of food waste could be helpful in changing their mindsets.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
5 things I wish someone hold me when I first started Nutribuddy are:
1. Spend money wisely.
A huge mistake I made when I first launched Nutribuddy was spending £10,000 on a photoshoot just before we launched. I saw other brands had professional photos of their products with models on their websites and believed it was part of a recipe for success. As a small business, this was a huge expense and it turned out it was unnecessary too as there were far cheaper ways to achieve the end-product.
I have never again spent such money on a photoshoot. Instead, I purchased a camera for a fraction of the photoshoot cost and now photograph friends and family and even feature myself alongside the products.
Budgets are tight as a start-up so you need to think very carefully about which areas to invest in.
2. The easy option isn’t always the best option.
When Nutribuddy first launched (before I even started mixing products in my kitchen), I had a third-party manufacturer making the products. It was so easy! They would mix up the products and put them in the packaging before shipping them to a third-party fulfilment center to ship out the products.
It didn’t take me long to see the errors of my ways. The products were so far off what I envisioned. The manufacturing company told me that additives were 100% essential or the products wouldn’t flow through their machines, so they added them. Already I was losing my way. Then there was the fulfilment center which seemed incredibly mis-managed. Orders weren’t going out on time and tracking codes were not working. This led to unhappy customers. Finally, it was all very expensive.
I made the decision to start over, mixing up my own products in my kitchen and then shipping them from my home. It was far more time-consuming but the products I made and service offered to customers were far superior. Plus, it was a lot cheaper than using third-parties, meaning profit margins became higher.
3. Don’t copy others. Be better than them.
Whilst it is good to analyze what successful competitors are doing, it is also incredibly important to make yourself as different as possible. Markets are so crowded these days and you have to really stand out in order to get attention.
When I launched the first products in foil pouches, they looked exactly the same as everything else out there. Customers had no reason to click through to my website over others. However, as soon as I made the packaging unlike anything else on the market, consumers started looking into the products more.
4. Persistence is key.
Launching a company is very challenging. It can take a long time to see results. However, I truly believe that if you put enough time and effort into something, you can never fail. There have been long periods of challenges throughout Nutribuddy’s lifetime, but I always persist until we come out the other end of it.
5. Never stop adapting.
The world we live in these days is ever-changing. Markets are fast-paced and people have short attention spans. For those reasons, you must constantly adapt. A strategy that worked last year may not work this year or a particular product that was in demand two years ago now may get no attention. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have had to shake things up with Nutribuddy!
Are there other leaders or organizations who have done good work to address food waste? Can you tell us what they have done? What specifically impresses you about their work? Perhaps we can reach out to them to include them in this series.
I purchase my vegetables for a company called Riverford. I just love their ethics! They are a UK-based company who produce fruit and vegetables on their own farms. They are passionate about reducing food waste. Not only do they donate their surplus supplies to charities, they give free fruit and veg to staff members and do their best to educate consumers. They offer recipes to customers on how to make use of leftovers. They have even launched their own online magazine and do frequent articles on food waste and why it is so important that we reduce it.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to inspire more awareness of climate change and help people commit to a more sustainable lifestyle which has the planet in mind. Climate change, I believe, is the single biggest challenge which affects us and it is imperative that the governments do not ignore it any longer.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I’d probably choose Greta Thunberg. She is extremely interesting and I love her passion for the planet. She has brought so much awareness to the climate crisis and is inspiring lots of young people to speak up and make changes. As young people are the future, I think her influence on them is extremely important.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My company Nutribuddy can be found online (https://nutribuddy.com/). Our products are only available to purchase through our website.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.