Jake’s Boost are one of the official sponsors of the HBC Summit on 15th April. We caught up with Ansje – one half of the team behind Jake’s Boost – to find out more about about their involvement with charity as a social enterprise and what it’s like to be a startup in the food industry.
What was the motivation behind launching a nut and seed spread product?
My business partner Dan and I love the outdoors and go hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking and any other activity we can do in the fresh air. We always take a little snack with us and fell in love with nut butters on a trip to the US a few years ago – we carried jars and spoons up the mountain because we couldn’t get enough. At that time, natural peanut butter became quite popular in the UK and almond butter eventually followed suit, but we grew a little tired of the singular taste after a while. The problem was, if you wanted something a bit more “exciting” it normally contained additives – salt, sugar, natural sweeteners of some variety, and of course palm oil. They weren’t particularly healthy and lacked some essential nutrients. So we started experimenting adding seeds to the mix. Turning it into a business happened by chance really.
Where did the inspiration for the name ‘Jake’s Boost’ come from?
Jake is our dog. He negates the occasional couch potato tendencies in us and gets us out of the house, come rain or shine. We call him our chief biscuit officer: CBO. And Boost because nut butters give you a natural energy and nutrition boost with good fats, fibre and protein.
What makes Jake’s Boost different from other nut and seed spreads?
Jake’s Boost makes nut butter like no other. We are all about unique ingredient combinations, flavours and textures. As far as we know, we are the only producer of a nut butter with 10 nuts and seeds in one recipe. We believe that there’s more to nut butter than smooth or crunchy.
You’ll find only high quality ingredients in Jake’s Boost nut butters and, unlike some other brands, we manufacture in the UK which ultimately makes Jake’s Boost a premium product but better for the environment. Of course, the ingredients have to be imported but we don’t ship pallets after pallets of the finished product over from overseas on top of that. Our jars are made from recycled glass and can of course be re-used again.
How did you choose which ingredients to use in your spreads?
Every ingredient we use has a distinct nutritional profile; blended together they deliver a knockout punch when it comes to health benefits. In our Jake’s Boost SuperBoost nut and seed butter, you’ll find 6 nuts and 4 seeds. So, for example, almonds and pecans provide you with a good level of omega 6 fatty acids which you need for brain function. Complementary to that, chia and linseed are a good source of omega 3- essential for its anti-inflammatory properties. You can get omega 3 from oily fish but when you follow a vegan diet, you need to find alternative sources. What can be easier than having it combined in one product that you can spread on your toast or mix into your porridge?
You donate 5% of each jar’s profits to charities that work towards ending childhood food poverty. Why is this cause in particular so important to you?
I worked as an executive producer for a TV channel in Mongolia for 1½ years and while there, got involved in some charity work. One of the charities was an organisation that provided school materials, hot meals and clothing for orphanage schools. When I came back to the UK, I wanted to volunteer again but didn’t think these type of charities existed in this country. How wrong I was! During my studies at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University, I learned about social entrepreneurship – how to use business to do good – and the penny dropped. Dan was in on the plan to better the lives of the most vulnerable members of our society straight away.
Considering that the UK is one of the top 30 richest countries in the world, the fact that we have 3.5 million children living in poverty is shameful. We volunteer at the kitchens we support and see what difference they make. Some of these families go through really difficult times and not only do they they get a hot meal but also find a sanctuary where they can leave their worries at the door for a couple of hours. When you see them come in you’d think “why are these people here, they look fine, well dressed and not malnourished” but that’s a cover up: they don’t want people to see what they are going through. Their children come back to the servery for seconds and thirds because they don’t know where their food will be coming from the next day or whether there’ll be any at all.
What is your favourite way to eat the spreads?
That’s a long list! Jake’s Boost nut and seed butters are all perfect for any kind of breakfast – porridge, smoothies, on toast, you name it. But individually, we like them in sweet as well as savoury dishes. ‘CacaoBoost’ is great for energy bars or brownies, ‘TigerBoost’ tastes amazing in curries or nice cream and our SuperBoost is probably the most versatile of the 3- we have so far used it in salad dressings, stir fries, risottos, banana bread, and spread on vegan cheese. We have recipes on our blog and are actively working with some talented and creative recipe developers to come up with more ways to enjoy them. Dan’s favourite way of eating them is to scoop yoghurt into the jars when they are 2/3 empty, stir it all up, and eat with a spoon straight from the jar!
What are some of the obstacles you have faced as an entrepreneur in the food industry?
Both my business partner and I come from creative backgrounds, having worked in film, TV, and commercials for over 15 years. We didn’t have much experience in the food industry except for the love of eating healthy, wholesome and nutritious produce. We knew little about things like labelling requirements, margins and markups or how to find out the shelf life of our product. It’s been a pretty steep learning curve for us.
What is the best advice you would give someone starting their own food business?
Trial and test your product over and over and over again. If it is a product you can make at home, register your kitchen with your local council, get liability insurance, and start selling your wares at markets, food festivals and fairs. That’s the most effective market research you can do. If you are not sure who your target customer is, by selling to them face to face you’ll figure it out pretty quickly.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from launching a nut/seed spread company?
Don’t act on every single piece of advice you are given. The food startup scene is huge now, especially in the UK, and there are lots people who are only interested in their own personal gain. Very early on, you need to find a mentor or advisor who is as passionate about your product as you are and wants to see you succeed without expecting anything in return. We were fortunate to have been involved with the Accelerate Cambridge and Social Ventures Cambridge programmes at the Judge Business School and met incredible business coaches who advise us to this day.
Finally, what is in store for 2017?
We’ve so much planned for this year! Blogger collaborations and events, competitions, trade shows, vegan food fairs and so much more. On April 15th, we’ll be launching a crowdfunding campaign with social enterprise crowdfunding platform UpEffect. We’ll offer great rewards: a recipe book, product and product packs for reduced prices, merchandise, corporate breakfasts and much more.
If you like what we do and want to support us, please check out our campaign. All of these efforts will bring us one step closer to our ultimate goal: to be a ‘multi social’ enterprise. We want to build a lifestyle brand that offers like-minded and socially conscious people a range of consumer products in different categories that all support individual causes such as the protection of endangered animals and environmental conservation.