Innovation and enterprise blog

20 June 2013

Cooking up Success for Food in London

‘Cooking up Success’ is the series of food business related events at the Business & IP Centre for Spring and Summer. One of these events that we recently held was a speed mentoring session with expert foodies like Petra Barran of Kerb, Jo Densley of Relish Marketing and Kerrie Dorman of UK Affordable Mentors. The professional experts and their fields were Mirtha Medina (HR), Matt Harley (Design & Strategy) and Paul Harrison (Patent Attorney) - latter are both of Ideas 21

The speed mentoring format was similar to a ‘Knowledge Café’ or speed dating (not my words!) which was interesting to facilitate, experience and observe. Delegates introduced themselves and their food business interests with energy, open discussion and happily filled in the gaps with each other in 30 minutes! It was beautiful to see start-ups sharing insights, thoughts and contacts in the industry with each other. 

Niche food businesses were discussed, such as vegan burgers, breads and patisserie. The UK market is still behind the USA, where 7 million people or 3 % of the adult *population is vegan, health-conscious consumers. The businesses all were passionate about food, and thought that there were customers out there who would put their money into 'healthy options' if they were easy to find, reasonably priced and most important of all... tasty. 

I had an in-depth conversation with Gluten Freak, a business was born out of health concerns and the scarcity of gluten-free foods on the market. They stressed that being a small business allowed them to avoid cross-contamination, but as they grow they would need to continue to be as consistent with larger production batches. The co-founder of Incredible Bakery Bread was willing and eager to share experiences and knowledge with other start-ups, such as a UK-wide refrigerator delivery company, and food incubators, such as Greenwich Cooperatives and We are Kitchenette.

Little Brew

Kerb’s founder Petra delivered some great mentoring to Little Brew, a home brewer from Camden’s Lord Alephant, who uses local produce and British hops. One question on capacity for large orders brought an impassioned response that small allows Little Brew to focus on full flavour and that they can offer customised bottles for example for weddings and corporate events. Petra also offered copious advice to a chilli oil maker and Chinese cook whose passion was to start her own food business, being from a family that has been in the restaurant business for over 30 years. KerbIdeas including gaining all the necessary accreditation for Food Hygiene and Public Liability Insurance for pop-up restaurants and street food traders like Kerb. By the way, this type of accreditation information for various industries is contained in Cobra reports, which are available in the Business & IP Centre. Petra demonstrated and mentioned that Kerb is flowing with enthusiasm and support to start-ups who benefit from the exposure to the Kerb brand, access to private and corporate clients, loyal customers and a large Twitter following. The session concluded with encouragement, for even Kerb lacked an authentic Chinese food outlet and Petra ended with it’s “exciting times for Food in London!”


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