Food waste is an ugly reality of today’s global food system. Ugly because the estimated 1.3 billion tons of food wasted each year around the world leads environmental, economic and nutritional loss and cost. And literally ugly because much of the food is wasted simply because it doesn’t fit the average consumer’s’ idea of beauty. Of course, there are efforts to get these discarded misfits back out of the field and onto the fork in their natural form, but there’s also a push to turn this unwanted produce transformed into a tasty treat. Leading the way? Snact.
Michael Minch-Dixon and Ilana Taub are self-described Snactivists: environmental and food waste activists that aim to bring tasty fruit jerky to consumers in the UK and eventually around the world. Knowing that they wanted to concentrate their future efforts in sustainability, both signed up for an MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College in London and went on to pursue separate careers. But it took an alumni dinner and inspiring chat to come up with a general business idea in late 2012. The friends took a simple plan (creating snacks from unwanted food) and ran with it, pitching to the Be the Start campaign run by Virgin and BITC. While they didn’t walk away with a grand prize, they were short-listed and this was enough to give them the confidence to put their idea into practice.
Their original idea was to create fruit crisps, but a stroke of luck pointed them to food historian Dorothy Hartley to a recipe for fruit jerky. Equipped with knowledge, good intention and a willingness to change the food waste scene, the two invested in a 100£ dehydrator and started hauling unused from Spitalfields and New Convent Garden markets and taking it back to dehydrate in batches. Their hand processed efforts yielded rewards, and in 2014 they launched a Crowdfunder campaign to take Snact to the next level. Their creative campaign (where they brought on board merchandise partners including Pants for Poverty to offer Snactivist underwear and other rewards) raised £13,516.
The fruit flavored Snacts are now processed and distributed out of Kent, distributed to a growing number of independent outlets around the country, always using the fruit that would otherwise go to waste, which in the UK is estimated at about 20-40% of all produce. And if food waste should stop being an issue? “Hooray,” says Michael, “we have succeeded and then we will move on to the next environmental challenge.”
In the meantime, grab yourself a Snact and read up on how Michael and Ilana are making change in the food waste world.
Can you tell us how the idea for Snact came about?
We both wanted to start a sustainable business, and realised we shared an interest in food and sustainability. We also felt strongly that food waste was an issue that needed tackling, and from combining all these ideas Snact was born!
How did you decide on fruit jerky as the best product?
We quite randomly came across fruit leather as an old way of preserving fruit on a food historian’s blog. It appealed to us because it meant the fresh produce can be turned into a product with a much longer shelf life, and because it doesn’t matter what the fruit looks like – it can be big, small, wonky – and it will still work perfectly as fruit jerky!
What prompted you to take your idea to the business level?
We took part in a sustainable start-up competition run by Virgin, and our pitch made the shortlist. That gave us the confidence to develop it and make it a reality.
What stage were you at when you decided to crowdfund?
We were in very early stages, making a handmade product and selling it at a handful of markets, all by ourselves.
How did you decide on crowdfunding as a way to propel your idea forward?
It felt like the right thing to do. It was relatively low risk, and not just about the money – it helped us create a buzz around our brand and become more visible on the market.
How did you prepare for your crowdfunding campaign?
We looked at lots of other crowdfunding campaigns and made a detailed plan. We thought long and hard who to reach, how to reach them, what to offer in return.
What did you find most effective for your campaign?
Maybe the most effective were personal messages we were sending to our friends, acquaintances and supporters.
After having done crowdfunding, what is your advice for others?
Don’t underestimate the amount of work it’s gonna take – it will be lots, and probably more than you expect. It’s also important to be creative throughout the campaign.
What was the best part about the crowdfunding experience?
Receiving a lot of feedback and seeing the enthusiasm of our supporters.
How has Snact evolved since your crowdfunding, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
It’s been two years since our Crowdfunder campaign, it’s evolved a lot! We are a fully-fledged business, we’ve refreshed our branding, increased sales, and operate on a much bigger scale. What we’re aiming for in the future is to have an even bigger impact, and launch new products.
What is most challenging about being a “startup” in the F&B sector?
Neither of us worked in the F&B sector before! It’s been a massive learning experience and we had to figure out a lot of it by ourselves.
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