Ever thought about launching your own food start-up in the health food industry? Then you may want to read on. We caught up with Asa, founder of iRaw Healthy Snacks, to find out exactly what it’s like to do just that.
What was the motivation behind starting your own raw snack food company?
I started my first raw food business, YUUGA Kemistri in early 2013 and received an overwhelming amount of bookings for the raw food classes! I was by then making raw foods at home, mostly as an attempt at having ‘zero food waste’ as I got a lot of pulp from juicing and making nut milk. I took samples to the classes and they loved it, which made me realise that there is a demand for tasty and delicious healthy snacks in the market.
First I created the raw crackers ‘Rapples’ then raw cookies ‘Choco Rockets’ and ‘Lemon in Love’, shortly followed by the ‘Raw Beauty Snack’.
In your opinion, why are raw foods more nutritious than heated or processed foods?
In my opinion, following a raw food lifestyle provides the most benefit because of the way the food is prepared or processed. It has been found that enzymes are heat sensitive; they get lost in the traditional way of cooking and the nutrient value of the food is reduced as well. However in my experience it is the chlorophyll in the green vegetables, herbs and algaes that are superior for our health. They help to oxygenate the blood and therefore provide the best environment for our cells to thrive. This is the best anit-ageing secret there is as far as I am concerned.
What is your favourite food to snack on?
Oh now this is a tricky question. Before my transit from vegan to Raw Vegan I was a huge fan of desserts. In fact it started in my mother’s kitchen as a 9 year old. After having up to 2-3 green juices and smoothies daily, my palette has turned rather ‘green’. So now I love a challenge with flavours. To be perfectly bias there are three products from iRaw that stand out for me: Beetroot Basil Brownie, Raw Beauty Snack and the Rapples. I can have these all day long.
How did you choose which foods to include in the snack range?
Some of the products just happened naturally, like the Courgette Snack. When I tried it on friends and at markets it was obvious that people had an instant love connection with the basil flavoured little diskettes. The kale chips seemed fairly normal and I felt there was space for ours, which introduced a new mix of flavours. The Crunchy Onion snack is another one that got people’s attention when I was testing the products! However, my little gem is the Raw Beauty Snack – perhaps because I simply adore algae, I always have a packet of these in my bag and on my desk.
Was there a lot of trial and error involved in choosing the flavour combinations?
No everything has happened rather naturally. I probably should say yes to make it sound like a lot of work (!) but for some reason I can taste the flavours even before making the product. I think it is fair to say that I have a ‘flavour memory’! I’ve always been a foodie and I’m not one to follow recipes. I approach the kitchen for meditation and creative work, for me the kitchen is the most magical place in the home. This is where I travel without leaving the house….
How can the food we eat affect our lifestyles?
I think our choices define our health. There is no way around it. I speak of this by experience as I thought I was very healthy when my health totally collapsed in 2001. Eating processed vegan food wasn’t such a good idea, I was single-handedly running three businesses and in the gym every day so something had to give. I had to go back to making my food from scratch in order to reverse back to being healthy as before. That’s when I cut out sugar, gluten and soy. I progressed to juices and smoothies with raw bars in 2004 and my health has stayed the same since then. I hardly get sick. So yes, I believe the fuel we provide our systems with is of utmost importance!
What are some of the obstacles you have faced as an entrepreneur in the food industry?
Preparing for a food production is a tough challenge. Luckily I have set up businesses before and also ran a vegetarian cafe for some years, so I had an idea of what needs to be done. For iRaw I have chosen to manufacture our own products in house. That again is another challenge. I felt we didn’t have a choice as many of our products are unique to us and I wanted to protect those for as long as possible. I’ve met so many people who have looked at me and said ‘what do you know about manufacturing?’ I decided to not let that affect me and to instead stay firm in my beliefs. Getting organic approval is another challenge but totally worth it as it is the purpose of our production.
What is the best advice you would give someone starting their own food business?
Remember why you are doing this, and use that as your guiding light. I’ve been lucky as I’m very inquisitive and love a challenge, I would say it’s all about choosing the right path and being selective about who you chose to work with. Trial and errors are normal as long as we learn from them. If you firmly believe in your concept it will be easier to have others on board. Go for it!
What has been the highlight so far?
I think the whole investor journey is what stood out in 2016 for me. I would never have thought it would be such a tough task. However, when I received the first labels in my hands, that’s when I felt excited and understood that this is no longer an idea but a business.
What is in store for iRaw for 2017?
iRaw has just been listed with distributors in UK and we are already getting orders from abroad. Our plan is to attend six trade shows this year and run several campaigns. Plus we are organising our ‘HARD’ launch of iRaw on 26th April: we’re so excited as we are planning an event associated with the launch. We are also launching our first children’s product at the Mind Body Spirit show on 28th April and very much looking forward to that too. By the end of 2017 we will have launched the complete range – 45 products -and aim to be stocked in a few countries, so it’s a totally adventurous and exciting year ahead!