I’m delighted to be back to share a new and exciting Behind the Biz story. If you haven’t come across my small biz interview series before then you can find out more about it over on my podcast. I simply chat to the founders of new and exciting businesses and share their stories here on PGT.
Today I’m chatting with Amy Moring, the co-founder of Hunter & Gather – where they make oils & condiments without the nasties.
How did you get to where you are now?
At Hunter & Gather we strive to make simple food really well! The wider mission is to pro-actively trumpet honest, tasty food that’s free from lazy sugars, grains and harmful fats, an earnest, heartfelt voyage of discovery that taps into both Jeff’s (co-founder/life partner/kindred spirit) and my (often debilitating) personal childhood food pilgrimages.
I was diagnosed a coeliac some 25 years ago, at a time when a tasty ‘free-from’ food landscape was little more than a foolish, faraway notion. Very little was known about this silent, draining illness that was constantly impeding and undermining my freedom to eat and live freely.
About the same time, Jeff was fighting his own ‘food demons,’ as a sports-loving yet chronically ill child, (eczema, asthma & severe acne) who rather fortuitously stumbled into an eminently more sensible ‘clean living’ eating regime at uni that quite literally turned his life around.
As a young, ‘itching to get going’ family business, we identified oils & condiments as two essential, ‘lost-in-time’ food categories that were being dominated by faceless multinationals producing depressingly dull and cheap ingredient offerings.
Our inspiration was ‘as good as homemade’ keeping recipes blissfully simple and devoid of any lazy fillers, half-hearted ingredients and synthetic nasties. We wanted to produce memorable cooking/side of plate products that lifted not stifled the food to which it was being introduced, allowing a humdrum, tumbleweed category to provide a glimpse of its more premium-leaning ambitions
When did you suspect that you were onto something special?
Very quickly is the short answer. There’s no question that we were helped early on by the fact that we had a very clear, no-nonsense agenda with regards to what we were seeking to achieve!
Ingredient wise: Avoid needless complication – every best-in-class ingredient had to earn its place within our bottle or jar. This means there was simply no space for any half-hearted ingredients (powdered egg), ‘padding out’ fillers or synthetic nasties – we decided at the very outset that ALL-NATURAL was the only business template we’d consider.
We wanted products that talked the language of influential ‘food minorities’ (coeliacs, vegans, keto, paleo, dairy-free, low carb/high fat) without losing their ‘everyday essential’ appeal. We wanted to show essential, ‘support cast’ products in a more gastronomic light without ever coming across as flouncy, fringe or niche.
We wanted ongoing innovation to be a mainstay of our business, where our range is never allowed to sit on the sidelines twiddling our fingers. Recent additions to our mayonnaise collection demonstrate exactly what I mean, be that our Chipotle Chilli and Lime with its unmistakably ‘discreet heat’ twang or our velvety smooth yet lingering Garlic & Black Pepper proposition. We feel so strongly that nobody should be overlooked which is why we also created an egg-free Mayocado which cleverly mingles pea protein and avocado oil to create a head-turning, vegan-friendly alternative.
Despite only having been around a little while we already enjoy a healthy presence within Wholefoods, Ocado, Amazon and Daylesford PLUS a number of the nation’s most discerning health food wholesalers. We’re also starting to spread our message overseas to a number of the world’s more avant-garde, ‘heathier living’ economies: Germany, Iceland, Slovenia and UAE (with others to follow!) .
We’ve also been lucky enough to win a few ‘industry gongs’ along the way which isn’t bad for a two-year old operation run by a couple of ‘eager beaver,’under 30 food disruptors.
What’s your hero brand?
Has to be our cold-pressed virgin avocado oil that sits at the very heart of most things we do. Avocado is the unrivalled ‘poster boy’ of the much lauded Clean 15 list, a truly under-appreciated fruit, a nutrient rich fruity feast, jam-packed with beneficial goodness oleic oil, folates and vitamins C,E,K and B6.
Avocado is starting to make headway in the major mults but is still unfairly typecast as an occasional luxury, whilst in reality avocado provides a very viable alternative to mass-produced seed oils (rape, sunflower …..) that some research suggests contributes to unwelcome inflammatory issues. Like heroic olive oil, our avocado oil is pressed directly from the edible flesh of the fruit which means we’re able to capture a lion’s share of its health promoting goodness.
We are not a business which dabbles in compromise which is why we created Europe’s 1st 100% avocado-based mayonnaise unlike a number of our bandwagon jumping peers who champion curious avocado & sunflower oil blends.
How did you decide upon the name of your brand?
Very last minute as we were just about to launch a few years back when a hitherto silent US manufacturer decided to pull the rug from under our feet and challenge us using our first choice brand name.
However fortune smiled when we realized via some curious quirk of fate that my family tree includes the surname Hunt whilst Jeff comes from a fine line of Gathergoods. They say some things are simply meant to be so the fact that we now have a brand name that reflects our paleo beliefs whilst celebrating our family roots feels very reassuring indeed. H
What did you do before starting Hunter & Gather Foods?
Whilst my degree was in Equine Studies & Business Management, (horses are my guilty pleasure) my career began in food & drink sales which included a good ‘learning the ropes’ stint at Mars Foods. More recently I’ve worked for one of the leading lights in premium tier/proper pet food, because like us humans too many pets have been brought up on quick fix mainstream food lacking in flavour and nutritional integrity.
Jeff interestingly started out as a Quantity Surveyor, setting up a building business with his step-dad before the lure of championing ‘great food made the right way’ became too much.B
Please share a business high and low with us.
Low: The rug was temporarily pulled from under our feet when we discovered that a small ‘rogue’ batch of our product went out missing a key ingredient that would adversely affect its shelf life. It was a ‘drop jaw’ moment that we thankfully resolved rather quickly. Interestingly the speed with which we held up our hands and initiated a top to bottom contingency strategy actually strengthened our key retailer relationships as they now know we’ll keep our heads when inevitable ‘bad news’ blips occur.
High: Rejecting vast industrial farms for ethically on-the-ball avocado farming co-operatives. We learnt early on in our journey that top quality ‘wonky’ crops (discoloured, mis-shapen, wrong size) were being abandoned despite none of these aesthetic irrelevances impacting on the underlying quality of the all-important oils
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the food industry?
Trust in your gut – the link between our brain and gut is become ever more prevalent in the healthy food sphere, so there is no wonder our guts should be listened too. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Another opportunity will come along that is the right one for you and your brand. If something feels right, do it, jump in and enjoy the ride.
I want to say a huge thank you to Amy for taking the time to be a part of Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed hearing about the story behind Hunter & Gather. Amy also offers excellent advice for aspiring entrepreneurs – trust your gut.
I can’t wait to try their products and wish them the best of luck in the year ahead.