This article was created in collaboration with Mindful Bites. Mindful Bites are sponsoring the ‘Best New Blog’ category in this year’s Health Blog Awards, hosted by That Protein and the HBC. Get tickets to the ceremony here.
What was your motivation for launching a premium nut butter company?
I was raised in a kitchen and have always enjoyed food for its unique ability to surprise with the infinite creation of taste it allows by changing a small variable, but also the power it has to shape human connections.
Creating a food business had always been a dream and I guess I needed to get myself into a position of financial stability before taking the plunge. Over the years, I have had the chance to look deep into food, the role it plays in our lives, the rising levels of obesity and metabolic disorders; I studied the biochemistry of food but also the neuroscience behind food in an attempt to understand why we are attracted to certain foods and not others.
My little experiment here was to create the sense of indulgence normally associate with fatty sugary food with something which was totally healthy and yet decadent and super tasty; hopefully the magic formula has worked!
What makes Mindful Bites different to any other nut butters on the market?
Our products are always blended with superfoods, as we like the novelty element they represent, as well as the taste and clear health benefits. We created a texture with is super velvety. Both the taste and texture have been carefully studied and created to encourage slow eating; thanks to the texture, the taste stays in your mouth for longer, the superfoods stimulate the curiosity and offer new taste nuances, all elements which we hope can help distracting from distractions whilst eating!
What is the key to creating a product that stands out in a saturated market?
I think that entering a market, whether it is a new one or a saturated one, is equally risky and hard. The important factor is deciding who you are not going to be, even before you decide who you are as a brand; I have always had it very clear in my mind that I wanted Mindful Bites to be a premium brand promoting all things innovation, a brand with strong voice beyond the commercial nature of the business. This means that at times we just have to walk away from some opportunities as they are just not aligned with who we are, what we stand for and what we are aiming to promote. But I am ok with that; I like taking risks but I would not like to risk losing our identity.
How do you deal with unexpected situations such as tight deadlines and quick turnarounds?
I always aim for excellence but accept that at times you can only deliver ‘good enough’ and a job done is better than spending too long chasing excellence at all costs. For all aspiring founders, this is an incredibly hard lesson to learn, as all founders in my opinion are intrinsically perfectionists with slightly obsessive tendencies; the key is choosing your own battles; so I do not cut corners on any product development stage as that is just something I could not accept, but there are areas where speed is more important than perfection. The beauty of a startup is the agility of doing quick turnarounds; I view this as an amazing opportunity, as it allows to quickly modify the offering based on the consumers’ response.
“The beauty of a startup is the agility of doing quick turnarounds”
How do you create more “mindful” relationships with bloggers?
Our approach to collaborations is very different; we don’t engage in the ‘send me samples and I write a post’ as we don’t feel it creates authentic relationships. We focus on creating and developing meaningful relationships with bloggers we interact with, whose content (regardless of the brand they are writing about) is aligned with our ethos, and whose overall contribution to the external world is positive.
We are very lucky as we have never had to pay anybody to write about our products; all the comments and mentions have come naturally and in a very authentic way. When we spot some real foodie out there, or somebody whose cooking abilities we particularly like, we may ask them to help us out on a specific project we are working on, as we like to get external opinions from time to time. Of course, we do share the goodies but we primarily try to give back in terms of career help, figuring out what they need to move to the next step in their journey and how we can support them. These are the only types of collaborations we do with bloggers, more based on creating a supporting collaborative environment.
What is the main benefit of working with newer and smaller bloggers?
I would lie if I said that I was not aware of the commercial importance of a large following. However, with large and smaller bloggers alike, we focus more on the level of engagement with their audience, irrespective of the size of such audience, and the quality of the content. In particular, I really like bloggers whose content evolves with their journey, who are prepared to take risks by putting out something which is radically different, as opposed to playing it safe. For us, these factors are way more important than the number of followers.
How important is the idea of mindfulness in snacking?
The tagline of our business is ‘snack with intention’. Intention is a core pillar of mindful eating but also a more mindful approach to living. So before reaching out to food, we ask a very simple questions: ‘Are you hungry?’. Often times snacking is the result of emotional triggers and not really hunger; this leads to mindless grazing, where food is just replacing a void or helping with some level of discomfort.
We encourage a more mindful approach to food, which consists of making snacking an occasion to not just eat, but also to check in with our emotions, let the noise around us just be as we tune in with how we are feeling, what our bodies need. It is a moment to create silence internally so we can hear our own voice. Sometimes we think that practising mindfulness requires lengthy meditation sessions in isolation, but this is not necessarily the case; we can use snacking as a moment to check in, to anchor ourselves back to the present moment, to also feel a sense of gratitude for being here right now with our little snack.
“Often times snacking is the result of emotional triggers and not really hunger… food is just replacing a void or helping with some level of discomfort.”
How can people ensure they eat mindfully in everyday life?
Mindful eating and mindfulness have lots of great benefits, but it may not work for everybody clearly. We suggest having a go, in the most simplified and easy to implement way. Eating mindfully can start from having awareness around the food we eat (where does it come from? what do the crops look like? how does this food get processed?) and we feel that inevitably with this increased level of awareness comes a huge sense of gratitude for the land that keeps giving despite us keeping on taking. Maybe the classical approach to mindful eating would not dwell on this, but for us this is a core part of eating and living mindfully every day.
You are an advocate of positive nutrition. Can you tell us what this means to you?
This is a great question and it links really well to the previous point. We avoid any strict categorisation of food as healthy and unhealthy, but overall we believe that any food can only be healthy if it has benefits not just for the person eating it but also for the planet. Where is the value in eating something which gives us awesome skin, hair, a flat tummy if somebody else is paying the price because they get exploited in the supply chain, or it is at the price of the planet? What matters to us is only positive nutrition, which means food that is nutrient-dense (as food which is void of nutrients has not only a negative impact on our health but it is also wasting a lot of precious resources) and is contributing to the entire ecosystem, from the farmers working on the land, to the way that land is looked after. After all, we are only borrowing it from future generations…
“Where is the value in eating something which gives us awesome skin, hair, a flat tummy if somebody else is paying the price because they get exploited in the supply chain, or it is at the price of the planet?”
What is your best advice to people who are making more effort to eat with intention instead of aimlessly snacking?
A more mindful approach to eating starts with dropping any judgement, whether that’s towards food or towards ourselves. Can desiring a naughty sugary chocolatey food really make us a bad human being? Can this temporary desire really have the power to erase all the values which make us who we are? And food, any food — crisps and ice-cream included — cannot really be defined as good or bad; there are circumstances when a particular type of food may be more appropriate than another, but food really is just food.
Checking in with how we are feeling and whether we are reaching out to food for emotional reasons or real hunger is a very important step; and so is sitting for few moments with the emotions or the hunger, just to realise that, actually, whether it is an emotional trigger or a physical cue, no food is going to kill us. It is a level of discomfort which we can definitely stay with for a few moments. Eating mindfully has to include savouring the food; eating is a highly enjoyable experience, it stimulates our taste buds and curiosity, provides us with potentially a new experience every time. Eating slowly in a more mindful way allows us to reconnect with food and the glorious experiences it can offer us.