Founded by three friends, Myles, Giles, and Rob, in 2015, Mindful Chef is one of the UK’s leading recipe box suppliers. The B Corp’s unique approach provides customers with delicious healthy meal plans, which are both sustainable and ethically sourced, and simultaneously support those in need, further afield.
“We actually established Mindful Chef’s mission back in 2014, well before we had even sold anything: to make healthy eating easy,” starts Rob Grieg-Gran, Founder and COO. “We were reflecting just the other day, on how we’re nearly ten years old and our mission is still the same, which is refreshing to be honest.
“It’s still used as a lens for what we sell and how we talk about things; it can be interpreted in so many positive ways. For us, healthy food starts with good ingredients, and good ingredients come from sustainable and ethical sources.
“We’ve always been incredibly consistent in communicating Mindful Chef’s requirements when it comes to farmers’ and producers’ procedures. Where and how products are farmed? Do they come from sustainable means? Is the countryside and surrounding environment being considered properly?
“Very recently, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in consumers’ preferences towards certain values that we’ve held close since the beginning. Even back in 2015, a good portion of our offerings were vegan, and our entire range was gluten and dairy-free, which we still practice today; the difference is, back then these decisions were polarizing, people thought we were mad!
“These choices have always been at the forefront of our minds and, interestingly, they have each steadily gained greater mainstream exposure since we’ve been operating; plant-based and gluten-free lifestyles have shed their stigmas, and it’s becoming increasingly more common for one of your friends or family to adopt these changes. There has been a big shift for sure, which has played straight into the approaches that we’ve always exercised, and we’ve definitely benefitted from it.”
“Similarly,” he continues, “we have always been conscious about the packaging that we use, which is something for which meal kit companies often come under scrutiny. We’ve made hundreds of packaging improvements over the last eight years – with everything apart from a few items now recyclable at home or in store.
Mindful Chef has been able to uphold these values with the support of its supply chain partners, namely the likes of British Quinoa Co, Pimp My Salad, Tomato Stall, Biona Organic, Tiba Tempeh, and Traditional Norfolk Poultry.
“All of our fresh produce is 100 percent LEAF Marque certified, as our means to link farming and the environment, which only a few retailers are currently doing. This is something we demand of our suppliers, as the standard drives the questioning of everything from hedgerows to biomass.
“Another great example would be our commitment to MSC accredited fish; more customers today are looking for the blue label than they were ten years ago, well at least I hope they are. Blue Planet did wonders for how the nation thinks about packaging, maybe we need someone to produce something similar for sourcing standards.”
Another of the company’s efforts, in the name of sustainability and ethics, is to primarily base its recipes around seasonal products. “During the winter, a lot of the fresh produce that people like to eat doesn’t grow in this country,” Rob states.
“So, we try to utilize the ingredients that do, but obviously have to divert somewhat, as we can’t write 40 recipes per week based on turnips, swede, and kale. We typically go to the European partners of our UK farmers, such as Tomato Stall on the Isle of Wight, who has a partner farm in Spain that can tide us over until the British season comes back in.
“The transition between seasons is always a tough period to manage. It requires great flexibility, as there’s no set date for one region finishing and another starting up. However, we still strive to buy locally where possible and to constantly bring new tastes and ingredients to the menu for our customers.
“It just means we have to be super conscious about where we can make suitable and easy recipe changes based on the season; if green beans were originally planned in the recipe for example, but purple sprouting broccoli is locally available, we’ll make the change.
From the organization’s earliest days, it has been focused on giving back. As it currently stands, Mindful Chef has donated over 16 million meals to school children in Malawi as part of its partnership with the One Feeds Two charity.
“During an early crowd funding round, one of our investors said they would only get involved if we became a B Corp,” Rob explains, “which we assured them we had every intention of doing. They weren’t ready to commit until we had been certified, so we decided to go for it as it sounded like sage advice, despite the fact we’d only been operating for a year or so.
“B Corp gave us a framework to consider, and ‘giving back’ jumped straight out at us. So, once we had the shareholder’s permission to essentially lose money, as we weren’t yet profitable and would be donating elsewhere, we decided to adopt an approach similar to Warby Parker’s ‘one for one’ giveaway.
“By the start of 2017, we were set up with One Feeds Two. Malawi is one of the bigger recipient countries. The charity provides school meals for children living in poverty, made from locally grown maize that is enriched in the country.
It may only seem like a bowl of porridge, but for a lot of these children it is the only meal they will eat in the day, and the fact it’s administered in schools has a huge impact on school participation too.
“When we started out, we were a very small donor, but we’ve now donated over 16 million meals,” he concludes. “Our customers buy around 70,000 meals per week, which means we donate the same number.
“We’ve had rocky times economically as all young businesses do, where we’ve said, ‘if it all goes under, at least we’ve donated millions of meals to those in need.’ From a founder’s perspective, it’s been another consistent mission and one that we’re very protective of. We will keep it in place, through good times and bad.”