In today’s Behind the Biz, I’m chatting with Jenny Costa, founder of Rubies in the Rubble – a sustainable food brand saving surplus produce and turning it into a range of high quality relishes and jams.
Where did the inspiration for Rubies in the Rubble come from?
Randomly one evening in 2010 I started reading about food waste. It was something I had never thought about or even really knew existed on scale. So, in discovering that we waste 1/3 of the food produced worldwide, creating 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, and consuming masses of resources in the process, I became passionate about the need to create change. Whilst we panic about how we can feed a growing planet, just 1/4 of just what we waste in the UK and USA would be ample to feed the 1bn going hungry. The food system seemed woefully out of balance and I had to act.
The next day, I set my alarm for 4am, I headed to a wholesale fruit and veg Market that I’d read about in London and that’s where the potential idea for Rubies in the Rubble was born. I was fascinated by the diversity of this nocturnal world – a world of famers, wholesalers, restaurant owners and market sellers, all living by night and sleeping by day, trading anything from durian to brussel sprouts.
But just along from the bustle of the traders were piles of unsold fruit and veg: mange-tout from Kenya, Mangos from the Philippines, tomatoes from Turkey, cranberries from California… all deemed unworthy and headed straight for the bin! What really saddened me was that much of these, though potentially with a very short shelf life, were perfectly edible.
So cycling home with boxes of mange tout in my basket and mangos in my backpack, I decided I’d make a range of chutneys from these un-necessarily wasted fruit and veg that would not only be a solution to using them, but also to raise awareness and encourage people to value food again – and use our resources well, one jar at a time.
I called it Rubies in the Rubble, and that’s where it started, as a project, with chutney.
How did you decide upon the name of your brand?
It was a play on diamonds in the dust and it was from seeing a bounty of great fresh produce being discarded that I thought – there is treasure in this bounty. It may have a short shelf-life but I can turn it into something that will extend its life and value!
How did you approach your first stockist?
We started selling at markets around london which is a great place to meet small stockists and delis.
What did you do before starting Rubies in the Rubble?
I was working in a hedge fund in Mayfair, London having completed a masters in Mathematics.
Did you always plan to be self-employed?
No, but I had started a small business when I was younger and knew I had a love for creating things that people might enjoy.
Please share a business high and low with us.
Business highs are pretty simple – coming into work each day to such an epic team and knowing you are building something you care about! (Cheesy but so true)
Business lows are (being a small brand) – not having the cash to do all our ideas or hire as many as we’d love! … we will get there one day hopefully!
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the food industry?
Know there is a market for what you want to create and make sure it tastes the best in its category!
Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?
We have great plans for 2019 which is super exciting – having grown the team and launching a new product, its all go go go!!
Thank you to Jenny for taking the time to share her inspiring business journey with us today.
Jenny has created a sustainable brand selling delicious relishes, jams and as of more recently, ketchup and vegan mayo. Not only does she make tasty products with surplus food but she raises awareness of the terrible food waste that goes on across the world today. A business that is truly making a difference.
I can’t wait to see Rubies in the Rubble continue to grow in 2019.