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04/08/2009 18:10:00

Good Food is Good Business

I was thrilled last week to find out that The Foodies Books have been shortlisted for the Semi Finals of the HSBC Start Up Stars Awards.


The awards are in their ninth year and celebrate the innovation and dedication of entrepreneurs and their businesses in their first 3 years of operation. It's a cool and prestigious awards scheme which attracts thousands of entrants so I am frankly totally shocked and thrilled to get to the last sixty. Keep your fingers crossed for me for the next stages!


However this blog is not all about me and how chuffed I am (I really am!). Like anyone in a competition, I immediately went to the HSBC awards website to check out my competition - who wouldn't, right? I expected to find lots of cut-throat businesses and not really many in my more ethical area of work, so if I don't win I could at least feel morally superior... Boy, was I wrong!


In the list of semi finalists there are a good number who are doing something which could just as easily be run as a charity or a social enterprise, but clearly doing good business at the same time. Some of them are actually not-for-profit, and many of them are making decent money by making everyone else's life a bit easier. It's heartening to see how many people have had an idea for something worthwhile and then have got off their seats to turn it into a reality which pays them enough to do it properly for a living. In fairness there is quite a lot of emphasis on ethical and green trading in the HSBC criteria so I shouldn't really be shocked, but I still was pleasantly surprised.


But what most caught my eye was that there are quite a few businesses concerned with sustainable, healthy food and with children's food. It seems that business minds are seeing the potential of this critically important area and that can only be good news for all of us.


For people who love jam on their toast, but could live without the boatloads of refined sugar in it, Scottish teenager Fraser Doherty's SuperJam company could be just the thing - making jams from his gran's original recipes but using superfruit berries and using fruit juices to sweeten them, his jams are available in supermarkets and I'll definitely be looking out for them now I know they are there.


There is a definite wind in the air for food products where you know the ingredients and they haven't been fiddled about with too much. Not for nothing Innocent became so popular. Well, Shaken Udder have carried on this tradition with their back to basics milkshakes, which they have been selling at festivals for years.


We all have good intentions about eating healthily but sometimes time constraints get in the way. Graze have tackled this by providing healthy boxes of unadulterated fruit, nuts, seeds and other yummies for busy people to well, er.. graze, instead of resorting to the office vending machine. Great idea!


Another thing many of us would like to do, but don't always get organised enough to achieve, is buying more locally produced groceries. It's lovely to go to all your local shops but can be time consuming and after a particularly hard week, getting the kids off to bed and then drinking a glass of wine while clicking on the internet shop from the local megamarket can sometimes be very tempting. are operating in quite a few areas of the country and striving to reconcile this by allowing the same convenience of online ordering for their customers with a delivery service which draws from a range of local suppliers. Bonus!


But as you might expect, I am most excited by the inclusion of two other children's food related businesses in the shortlist. The Kids Cooking Company is right up my street with their cute children's kitchen wares - cookie cutters, non-slip bowls and spoons and proper grown-up quality silicone cake tins. You'll know that I believe getting hands on is the best way to enthuse children about food and this company being shortlisted shows that their is plenty of demand for this kind of product, which makes me feel very optimistic.


The other directly child related company in the list is The UK Foodhall. Karen McQuade was the 2008 winner of the Local Authority Catering Association's Award for The Outstanding Supplier of The Year. You'd not be surprised to find out that I am passionate about the quality of school dinners. For a generation of children where many of the parents have minimal cooking skills, the school dinner can be a critical part of a child's nutritional intake and I can't say enough how grateful I am that Jeanette Orrey, Jamie Oliver and others have worked so hard to get this on the agenda. My own children's school, Orleton Primary, is a Food For Life School and the quality of their school dinners, prepared on site, is fantastic. But many schools have no option but to buy in from a caterer and in those cases it is massively important that the caterers have more than just margins at the heart of their business. The UK Foodhall supplies British farm assured animal products and vegetarian alternatives as well as healthy vending solutions to schools. Fab.


Obviously I personally hope I win the lot! But as it's a pretty tough shortlist, I am just chuffed to bits that so many of my competitors are taking food seriously. I am heartened that it seems that local, less processed, healthy foods are seen as good business sense as well as ethically right on, and that this is reflected in such a high proportion being in the last 60. Clearly kids health is not only our business, it's also good business!


Stay well


PS Keep your fingers crossed eh!




21/04/2010 08:03:00 by Chris Cook

Congratulations, will certainly keep my fingers crossed for you, and a great achievement whatever happens!

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