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Snackzilla – the journey to starting your own food business.

We came across Snackzilla on Instagram and immediately fell in love with the brand. We love the idea of a healthy biscuit and can confirm they are delicious. Added bonus – Snackzilla’s packaging is also plastic free and fully recyclable. We were fortunate to chat with Marieke from Snackzillla about her career and how she set up her brand.

Tell us a bit about yourself

First and foremost I’m a mum of two boys, aged 8 and 6, so that also makes me a full time taxi driver!

I’ve 18 years’ experience working in the private and not-for-profit.  Up until 2017 I was the COO of a successful start-up business, London Craft Week, but my love of food, branding and kids has taken me to start up my own new business. I’ve successfully raised seed funding and I am looking to launch into premium retailers in 2019.

I am also a mentor for the Princes Trust and am passionate about supporting young entrepreneurs.

What made you start SNACKZILLA?

Finding products for my kid’s lunchbox and after school snacks started to become a struggle, as the boys were getting older the usual crackers, oat bars and dried fruit products were not cutting it. They were being influenced by brands and what friends were having, and I needed products that I could chuck in their football bags, or eat on the go when rushing from swimming to scouts.

We’ve always been biscuit addicts in our household, and so I started to wonder, is there a healthier biscuit product out there that was nutritionally formulated for kids, but branded in a cool way which would appeal to older children. I realised there was a gap in the market, and so decided to see if we could make my Great Grandmothers oat biscuit recipe (which I had grown up making, and my kids loved too) into a healthier version.

How did you come up with your flavours?

The original recipe was a buttery vanilla flavour so vanilla was always going to remain in homage to my Great Grandmother. I found out early on that chocolate biscuits are the number one selling product in the category, so chocolate was a commercial decision! We created about 5 flavours when we started development and raspberry was the clear winner when we tested them with over 100 children, so that made the cut too.

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We love your plastic free packaging, we imagine it took a while to source, how did you go about the process?

When I started this journey I wanted a plastic free wrapper, but everyone kept telling me it was a ridiculous commercial decision due to the high cost, high minimum order quantities and impact on the shelf life of the cookies. I was determined however that it was what my customers wanted and my belief that businesses all have a social and environmental obligation to use sustainable materials whenever possible. After a year of looking, I found a 100% virgin paper fibre that can be recycled with your paper recycling and is industrially compostable. The pace public perception has moved regarding single use plastic has astounded me, especially the education and demand from children themselves.

What have you found to be your biggest challenge with setting up your business?

Apart from the packaging, finding the right manufacturing partner for me was quite a challenge. It took over a year of searching and visiting bakeries, across the country and EU, and many a time I thought I would have to give up or raise a heck of a lot of money and build a bakery myself! I knew as soon as I visited my bakery that they were the one. It’s a family run nut free site in Yorkshire, and they have been so supportive and kind, taking a massive leap of faith in me and the product.

What has been your biggest high so far with the business?

The greatest high so far has been the reaction to the product from children. Most children love cookies, but I’m amazed at the feedback to SNACKZILLA given that they are 45% less sugar than the average sweet biscuit, but kids don’t seem to notice! One child I know who has a sensory perception disorder can’t eat anything soft, and hates trying new things, but last week he tried a SNACKZILLA cookie and loved it. His mum was in tears and its these small wins that make me realise all the hard work has been worth it.

Do you have any special plans with the launch of your biscuit range?

We are planning on launching later this year with a nationwide retailer. The kids wrote and filmed a rap video with their cousins to accompany the launch, so we can’t wait for that to hit YouTube!

What one piece of advice would you give for people looking to start a food business?

From the beginning think about your 5-10 year plan so you can plan in scalability from the start. This needs to involve raising enough money, finding a manufacturer that can scale with you and creating a brand that can be flexible and adaptive to changes in the market. 

Check out the website https://www.snackzilla.co.uk/ for more information about the brand.



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The highs and lows of self-employment after children

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We are both really fascinated by how other small business owners manage balancing being a parent with working for themselves. This month we chatted to Sara Dalrymple, a London headshot photographer and family photographer who made the transition from investment banking to people photography after she found out she was pregnant with her first baby in 2013.

The transition between working for someone else to running your own business is huge. We both came into Nuttery Buttery wide eyed and bushy tailed. One and a bit years on and we recognise how tough it is.  We have both at times found it hard to maintain motivation and concentrate on our business, especially when you have looked after children all day, but hearing stories about other mums in business really helps us remember why we’re doing it! Read on for Sara’s journey to running a successful people photography business:

How did you come to the decision to work on your own?

I came out of Uni with an Economics degree and NO idea what I wanted to do, and ended up moving to London and getting a job in banking without really a clue about investment banking and what it was all about. It was fast paced, sociable and fun – perfect for my 20s but I’d seen first hand how the long and inflexible hours became problematic for those with children, and the very male dominated environment meant flexible working requests were barely entertained. I stayed for a decade but as soon as I fell pregnant with my first child I knew it wouldn’t be a job I could do while being the kind of present parent I wanted to be, so started thinking about what could be next. I’ve always loved photography and taking photos, but had never had any formal training or a proper SLR camera, I was very much the friend with a camera on nights out, at weddings and anywhere we went I’d be trying to get lovely, natural shots of all my friends smiling and having fun. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner, but taking photos of people is something I’ve always done, so I set about exploring the possibility of turning it into a career. I found an amazing course with The Trained Eye, which was an academy program to take it’s students to professional standard via technical and practical workshops, mentors, model shoots and lots and lots of practice over the year. It was EXACTLY what I needed and from day 1 I knew I’d made the right decision! By the end of our year, we had all set up our websites and launched our businesses!

How was your first year in business?

In the first year I built my business up any which way I could: by doing family shoots for all my friends with babies, offering up my services to anyone I knew who was getting married, as well as advertising locally, networking and doing a couple of wedding fairs. I threw myself into getting my name out there and providing amazing customer service to every single client I worked with, and I blogged as much as I could to get my SEO working for me. Before I knew it I was getting referred on and the bookings started coming in, but I’m not going to lie, the first couple of years were a lot of hard work getting everything established alongside a 1 year old. I was working late into the evenings and most weekends, but I made a pact with myself that I would allow myself to do that for 18 months maximum and if things hadn’t settled into a groove by then, to make a change.

How did you make the transition from weddings to headshots and family shoots?

In the beginning I was doing a lot of weddings – I’m a hopeless romantic and love everything about a wedding day, from the many family interactions you see to the fun atmosphere and full range of emotions, each one is magical and completely unique. As wonderful as it is to be able to photograph such a special day, I found that the more bookings I got the more and more weekends I was spending away from my family, and I had to remind myself that wasn’t the reason I wanted to be self employed. My main goal for my business was to support myself while being present for my family, and suddenly I was tag teaming with my husband and we barely had any time altogether. So even though I loved the work, I knew I had to make a change. I thought about what it was that I loved about weddings: photographing people and their stories and connections has always been what excites me, and I realised I could do this outside of people’s wedding days. I started taking on more family shoots in my local area of East London, focusing on keeping my style very natural and unposed and working a lot in local green spaces and family homes. More recently I’ve also been photographing female business owners who are often Mums too, which is a niche I absolutely LOVE! Being able to give people photos of themselves that make them feel really confident and happy makes my heart sing.

6 years into my business, I’m lucky that I still do a limited number of weddings, but I now finally have the balance I craved with the majority of my work being family shoots and fun, feel good headshots.

How do you find the difference between your pay before you made the transition to self employment?

Ooh, that’s a good question because when I worked in the City I had a really good salary but absolutely no flexibility in my working hours or location and limited job satisfaction. I don’t earn the same money from photography but I also don’t have the same childcare costs as I did, and what I’ve gained is a job I can honestly say I love and I’ll be doing forever, that fits around my family and makes me happy every day! I earn well enough to support myself and pay the mortgage, so even though the numbers aren’t the same, I feel SO much better off now.

How do you think you have made it work?

In the first couple of years it was a case of pure grit and a determination to succeed – I knew I couldn’t take my foot off the gas and that it would get easier once I was established, but it was hard juggling everything. I had to invest heavily in myself and my business and everything I earned in the first couple of years went back into training or equipment that I needed – I know I’m really lucky that I was able to have that time and be supported by my husband in my decision. It’s not easy running a business or being self employed but for me it’s been absolutely worth it, because I wanted to be the one to take and pick up my kids from school and now I have a job I love and that allows me to do that.

What is your one piece of advice for juggling self-employment with childcare?

Planning is key! One thing I really noticed is that the school day is SHORT compared to a typical working day, so making every hour count is the only way it works for me! Even though I work from home a lot of the time, I have to ignore the piles of washing or domestic chores until I’ve done my work – there is always something at home that needs doing but prioritizing your work to do list is a must. I batch cook, my slow cooker is my best friend, I leave my phone in the other room so as not to get lost on an Instagram, I am an obsessive listmaker and since I’ve started bullet journaling I’ve become so much more efficient! 2-3 nights a week I work in the evenings, and this means that I don’t feel guilty for finishing work at 3pm and spending until 7pm with my kids. I no longer spend 2 hours a day commuting, so that helps too! Whichever way you work as a mother it’s a juggle, but it’s finding what works for you and minimizing the lost time in between!

Sara is a people photographer who is passionate about helping camera shy women get a set of photos they really love – you can check out the natural style of her work here @saradalrymplephotography and https://www.saradalrymple.co.uk/.

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NB chats to Georgia, all about nutrition, nuts and baby weaning

This month we have been very lucky to snatch a few minutes with Georgia, a Registered Nutritionist who specialises in maternal, infant and child nutrition.

Georgia works for the NHS in East London, as a Senior Nutritionist for an Early Start Group. She is responsible for delivering nutrition training and support within early years settings (for example, nurseries, children’s centres and childminders).

Children are spending more time within childcare and it is vital early years practitioners have a firm understanding of good nutrition for children under 5.

We asked Georgia a few questions on the mind boggling complexities of weaning and nutrition to see if she could help clear up our thinking and generally make the whole thing much less confusing.

Which guidelines do you recommend following when starting to wean your child?

In the UK (which is supported by World Health Organisation advice) we recommend introducing babies to solid foods at around 6 months.

Some of Georgia’s top tops are:

  • Lots of variety and texture (banana v potato)
  • Simple foods which are easy to distinguish
  • No sugar, salt, spice
  • Eat with your baby (when you can!)
  • Try not to worry if your baby eats nothing one day then plenty the next. Look at the bigger picture and reflect on how much they’ve eaten over the course of a week/month

The big question around nuts

Georgia gave us lots of helpful advice here.

She said “Nuts, including peanuts, can be introduced to your baby from around the age of 6 months, as long as they are crushed, ground or a smooth nut butter. Whole and broken nuts however aren’t suitable for children under the age of 5 as their size makes them a choking hazard”.

The most recent guidance from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) states that ‘allergenic foods such as peanuts, hen’s egg, gluten and fish can be introduced from around 6 months of age and need not be differentiated from other solid food’. In fact, the deliberate exclusion or delayed introduction of allergen foods, including nuts, beyond the age of 6 to 12 months may increase a child’s risk of allergy.

“When you start to introduce your baby to solids at around 6 months, introduce allergen foods, one at a time and in very small amounts. That way, if you do spot any reaction, you are more easily able to pinpoint which food could have caused it”. For more information on Food Allergies in babies and young children I recommend visiting- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/food-allergies-in-babies-and-young-children/

Note: if there is a history of food allergies and/or other types of allergies in your family, you should speak to your GP or Health Visitor before introducing nuts and peanuts to your baby. It’s more likely your baby will have a food or other allergy if they come from an ‘atopic’ family (a family where one or both parents have eczema, hay fever or asthma, or have food allergies themselves).

In what format should you give your baby nuts initially?

Georgia recommends offering nuts that are finely crushed, ground or in the form of smooth nut butters.

“Nut butters are really versatile and a great way of adding protein, iron and other important nutrients into dishes for babies and toddlers. Good examples include porridge, thinly spread on a sandwich, dip for fruit and veggies or a dollop in a stew or curry”.  

How much should you be giving, and should you be giving a variety of different nuts?

“You can introduce your baby to a variety of nut butters from the age of 6 months as we know that different nuts contain different beneficial nutrients. There aren’t any current guidelines on how much nut butter to offer babies and toddlers; just add a little to the meals and snacks of your choosing. Remember, that it’s all about getting your baby familiar with a wide range of tastes, textures and flavours!”.

What are the allergen signs that you should be looking out for?

The NHS states that an allergic reaction can consist of 1 or more of the following:

  • Diarrhoea or vomiting
  • A cough
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Itchy throat and tongue
  • Itchy skin or rash
  • Swollen lips and throat
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Sore, red and itchy eyes.

Additional NHS advice

If you think your child is having an allergic reaction that’s related to food, talk to your GP for advice, or call NHS Direct on 111 for non-urgent medical enquiries.

In rare cases, foods can cause a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which can be life- threatening. If you think your baby is suffering a severe allergic reaction, always call 999.

If you suspect that your child has a food allergy don’t attempt to experiment by cutting out a major food as this could result in your child not getting the nutrients they need. It’s best to speak to your GP or Health Visitor for advice and a possible referral to a registered Dietitian.

Finally we asked Georgia the difference between traditional weaning and baby led weaning

“Baby- led weaning (BLW) has become an increasingly popular method of feeding. It refers to offering only fingers foods when you begin to introduce baby to solids (avoiding pureed or mashed foods on a spoon) and encourages them to feed themselves from the start. Some families prefer to follow the BLW approach, rather than the more traditional spoon feeding approach, while other families do a bit of both”.  

Research around BLW vs. traditional spoon feeding is inconclusive. “One of the benefits often cited around the BLW approach is the increased acceptance of foods, however the evidence is mixed. Some research has also suggested that babies who feed themselves are more likely to control their appetite, and perhaps reduce their risk of obesity later in life; however other research suggests that’s not the case”.   

We know that no matter what approach you take it’s important to introduce your baby to a variety of tastes and textures. The latest guidance from the UK Government in the Feeding in the First Year of Life report states: “Skills such as munching and chewing can only be acquired with experience and exposure to progressively firmer food textures. There is insufficient evidence to give detailed guidance on the speed of progression of solid food textures, but observational evidence suggests that exposure to lumpy foods before 9 months may be beneficial.” While the BLW approach encourages finger foods from the beginning, it’s important to remember that the more traditional spoon feeding approach also encourages the introduction of lumpy and fingers foods by the age of 7 months.

“So in conclusion, there really is no right or wrong way to introduce your baby to solid foods! The most important thing is that you offer baby a wide variety of foods so they are exposed to different tastes and textures and get all the nutrients they need. Remember that every baby is different and you know your baby best, so follow their lead at mealtimes!”.

A few tips around offering finger foods:

·         Start with soft finger foods that will easily dissolve or disintegrate in baby’s mouth. As baby becomes more confident you can introduce firmer finger foods.

Check out First Steps Nutrition for lots of finger food ideas: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59f75004f09ca48694070f3b/t/5a5a41479140b7e31a75ccbc/1515864404727/Eating_well_the_first_year_Sep_17_small.pdf

·         Don’t worry if baby doesn’t have any teeth yet as their gums are strong (the teeth are just below the surface)

·         It can be useful to make the finger foods slightly bigger than baby’s hand, so that they can grip things in their fist. The size of an adult finger is a good guide

·         Don’t give baby pieces of sausage, chunks of meat or cheese, whole grapes and nuts or chunks of raw vegetables or fruit that could be swallowed and lodged in the airway

·         Wash any fruits and vegetables you offer baby

·         Remove tough skin, pips, seeds and stones

·         Make sure you always sit with baby when they eat

·         While it can seem scary, gagging is a perfectly normal reflex. Gagging is the safety mechanism that helps reduce the risk of babies choking as it helps bring food back to the front of the mouth. As baby gets used to lumpy and fingers foods the gag reflex moves further to the back of the mouth

·         If you’re still worried about choking. Visit the NHS website for more information: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/helping-choking-baby/

Future reading

There are so many websites related to weaning and it is overwhelming, Georgia recommends sticking to ones that are evidence based. The list below is a good starting point.

Start4Lifehttps://www.nhs.uk/start4life/weaning/

NHShttps://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/solid-foods-weaning/

First Steps Nutrition (fantastic recipe ideas including some using nut butters- e.g. sweet potato stew, peanut butter and banana sandwiches)-  https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59f75004f09ca48694070f3b/t/5a5a41479140b7e31a75ccbc/1515864404727/Eating_well_the_first_year_Sep_17_small.pdf

Early Start Nutrition– for a range of blogs containing tips and information- https://www.earlystartgroup.com/category/nutrition-services/infant-nutrition-blogs/

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Nuts – Are they safe to give young children

I often find diet advice for adults is riddled with contradictions and so confusing I tend not to engage with it at all anymore.

I find diet advice for children, not that dissimilar. We both found the weaning period frought with anxiety, are they eating too much, are they eating too little, should I start with purees, should I do baby led weaning? It goes on and on…

To cut through some of the confusion on nuts and introducing them early, we wanted to do a quick post on the benefits of nut butters.

Advice has changed over the years on when exactly the right time to introduce nuts is (specifically peanuts) into our childrens diets.

For years, parents were advised by medical professionals to avoid giving nuts (specifically peanuts and peanut based foods) until children were at least three years old.  However, it is now widely believed that instead of reducing the amount of sufferers of nut allergies, it has in fact done the opposite. Prof Alan Boobis, from Imperial College London, said: “The previous view that delaying the introduction of allergenic foods decreases the risk of food allergy is incorrect”.

NHS guidance on this changed very recently and you are now encouraged to introduce peanuts and nuts in the form of nut butters from around 6 months. Research by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition has demonstrated that by introducing nuts (in the form of a butter or powder) can help protect baby’s from developing an allergy to nuts (if your baby already has any allergies, eczema, asthma or hay fever you should speak with your GP first).

I was chatting to Emma Ross (founder of @MamalinaUk) about nut butters and the benefits of introducing them to children from six months. She mentioned that Israel has one of the lowest rates of nut allergy sufferers globally because parents give their children Bamba, a peanut based puff as a weaning snack (fun fact, Bamba turns out to be a lot of baby’s first word). Dr Gideon Lack, a Professor at Kings College conducted a ground breaking study on peanut allergies and found that exposing infants to peanuts within their first year helped prevent peanut allergies in 81% of cases. After doing some research around this, I found that other countries such as China and Thailand also have low allergy rates as parents give their weaning babies dishes such as peanut rice porridge.

Nut butters also have lots of amazing benefits and are packed full of essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals that help support growth and development.

ü  Excellent source of protein to support your baby’s developing muscles (this makes them the perfect choice for vegetarian or vegan babies)

ü  Rich in heart healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids), making them a great source of energy for your growing baby

ü  Contain fibre to support your baby’s digestion

ü  Provide iron to support the production of healthy red blood cells 

ü  Source of calcium to help your baby build and maintain healthy bones and teeth

ü  Contain antioxidants, such as vitamin E, to support your baby’s immune system  

ü   Rich in B vitamins, such as folate, which help to keep your baby’s nervous system healthy

There are so many easy ways to add nut butters into your baby’s diets, a few super easy examples are below.

  • add to porridge and pancakes
  • use as a sandwich filling e.g. banana and peanut butter sandwich 
  • use in curries and stews
  • great topping for toast, crackers and rice cakes

No matter what dishes you add our nut butters to they’re a healthy nutritious option for your little one.

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Why we started Nuttery Buttery

We started Nuttery Buttery for a number of reasons, firstly we are obsessed with nut butter. This started with the delish but heavily sugar laden Skippy, Sarah and I both grew up in Hong Kong and I’m pretty sure this was all that was available. It is definitely still my guilty pleasure. Peanut butters have come a long way since the 1990’s, which is definitely a good thing.

Whilst on maternity leave, Sarah was seriously disillusioned with her job and I found myself also pregnant. We started talking and dreamed up the idea of launching our own range of nut butters. In hindsight, we definitely suffered from that classic  misconception that we would benefit from having “loads of free time”. How wrong we were! However, we both just wanted something different from work, mainly flexibility.

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We started Nuttery Buttery in October 2017 and our first market was Stroud Green with both babies in their slings. We loved every minute of chatting to everyone and the feedback from our customers was a definite morale boost. We did a few more markets over the next coming months but took a break in March and wanted to focus on our branding. Markets are an amazing way to get your brand out there and we are so glad we did them.

The branding process was great, we worked with Forecast Design who were amazing. It was during the branding process that we decided to focus on a children’s nut butter range as our girls loved nut butters so much and we were constantly hearing of their health benefits.

The final reason we wanted to set up Nuttery Buttery is to do some good or to put it another way give something back. The idea of tying our brand to a charity came to me whilst I was at a Mothers Meeting listening to ‘Selfish Mother’ talk about her business (for anyone who hasn’t heard of her she runs a fantastic brand and raises thousands for the Save the Children charity) her advice, which I quickly typed on my phone was “build something in to your brand which does some good”.

It was never a question as to which charity we wanted to tie up with, Sarah’s husband is type 1 diabetic and my brother is type 1 as well as many other members of my family. Having also had gestational diabetes, it really gave me a glimpse as to what type 1 diabetics have to go through on a daily basis. The constant monitoring of blood sugars is exhausting. I can’t even begin to imagine how challenging this must be for children and parents of children.

Therefore we are so pleased to say that we will be tying up with JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) we will be donating 5% of our online sales to the charity.

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