An exciting and innovative new brand, launching in Whole Foods Market this week, is ChicP – founded by Hannah McCollum. Already heralded with the Best New Convenience Food Award at the World Food Innovation Awards 2016, we find out what it takes to turn surplus veg into a profitable business.
Can you introduce us to ChicP – what led to you setting up your brand and what makes you special?
ChicP creates a variety of sweet and savoury hummus from surplus fruit and vegetables.
I was working in a comfortable and lovely office job in Central London where I’d been for 15 months and had some great experiences. However, I started to get tired of the same route to work and the less challenging responsibilities that were coming my way. I really wanted to be able to choose what I wanted to do in the day, while doing something I firmly believed in and loved.
Over the last seven years, I’ve cooked for families in the UK and all over Europe, predominantly as a private chef. I would often convert the leftover Ottolenghi-type salads into dips for the next meal. Nearly every day the question would be: “What’s the dip of the day Hannah”?!
While also working for catering and events companies, I would witness the colossal volumes of food wasted on a daily basis. This, combined with my cooking – plus my love for healthy, fresh food, using local ingredients and creating new dishes from the food we already have in our homes – gave me the clear vision for ChicP.
ChicP is special because my vegetables are from surplus – the wonky or over-sized vegetables that supermarkets reject, or that have been over-ordered by suppliers and need to be rescued. I believe in supporting British farmers and this is a great way to help. All the vegetables are raw, which adds far more nutritional benefits when compared with the many dips that use cooked vegetables.
My ethos is also about educating people about food waste and where their food comes from. Being part of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, as well as collaborating with a nursery in Central London and doing a few talks in schools and for other industries, is just the start… I think education is hugely important for sustainability and eating well and this, I hope, will come across.
ChicP is special because my vegetables are from surplus – the wonky or over-sized vegetables that supermarkets reject, or that have been over-ordered by suppliers and need to be rescued.
How difficult did you find it when brainstorming a brand name – and did you find anything helped with this process?
Finding a name wasn’t easy! I went through all sorts, from anything to do with vegetables and incorporating funny descriptive words, to playing with ‘raw’ , ‘hummus’ and also ‘chickpea’. Speaking to people and getting their opinions helped, but you know when it’s right… and luckily, after some time (!), it clicked. The Chic is to try and represent a part of me, the female behind it – while representing hummus by adding the P to sound like chickpea.
You were the winner of the Best New Convenience Food Award at the World Food Innovation Awards 2016 – which is amazing! You’ve also previously entered Richard Branson’s VOOM awards. How important do you think it is to enter your brand for awards? And have you learnt anything in doing so?
Yes, it came as quite a surprise winning the Best New Convenience Food Award – both that and Richard Branson’s VOOM competition have definitely helped with publicity. It is a great way to help get your brand out there and since winning the Innovation award, I have it on my e-mail signature and also, (after being recommended by a customer!), take my award prize to trade shows to display on my stand and it really helps you stand out.
It is another angle of the business that customer’s like to talk about – people have been really impressed, which is quite funny as I didn’t think think much of it. I was also shortlisted for the Food and Drinks Federation Award – I have no idea how or why because I don’t remember applying – under Innovation, which was exciting.
What would you say have been your three key lessons learnt since setting up your business?
- To remember that it’s my business – I have been easily swayed into listening to other people’s opinions and ideas and it’s easy to lose focus or forget what you really want. A few reminders have really helped me to remember that it’s important to do the things the way you want to do them.
- Enjoy yourself! Social media quotes pop up from time-to-time with great sayings and when I’ve read “Enjoy yourself and remember why you started”, that’s reminded me that it is key to feel good about what you’re doing and to keep going!
- Don’t rush – time has been one of the biggest burdens. I am often waiting for other people and this is why launching a business can take a long time. However, it’s better to get everything right the first time rather than launch too early and find you have to make a load of changes.
I think that an area to be capitalised on in the convenience food market is packaging – packaging needs to be more sustainable and the amount of packaging that is used for convenience and snack foods is huge.
How do you see the savoury snack/convenience food market changing and expanding in coming years? And how can this be capitalised upon?
I think it will continue to focus on becoming more healthy and sustainable, which is so important and also exciting. Consumers and retailers are slowly becoming more aware of the importance of both of these things and therefore the market is growing in these sectors.
I think sugar will continue to be targeted at and therefore less snacks will contain sugar and supermarkets will hopefully start to reduce the amount of sugary snacks on offer… I hope this goes for sugary drinks as well.
I think that an area to be capitalised on in the convenience food market is packaging – packaging needs to be more sustainable and the amount of packaging that is used for convenience and snack foods is huge. Therefore the more innovative packaging gets and the more we can reuse and recycle, the better.