Is it ‘cos I’m cool? Frozen plant-based ready meals are IN

From England, Root Kitchen enters the market with a key proposal: frozen plant-based ready meals that are nutritious, and convenient. The startup was founded by the brother and sister-in-law team David Beaver and Rishma Remtulla, both of whom are part of our current cohort. This is their story.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

David: At Root Kitchen, we believe in the importance of eating more plants – it’s good for us and it’s good for our planet. Our mission is to be the brand that makes healthy and nutritious plant-based ready meals more attractive and more accessible.

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

David: The idea for Root Kitchen came in late 2019. Rishma suffered from fatigue and immunity-based health issues for a number of years. She was subsequently diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a disease that mainly affects the nervous and immune systems.

In order to attempt to ease her condition, she tried a plant-based lifestyle. In this transition, she realised that there were very few convenient, nutritious, and affordable options. Inspired to solve this problem, Rishma went into the kitchen and started creating.

David and Rishma

Tell us about your team. Why are you the right people for the project? 

Rishma: David and I worked together for the family business –  a manufacturer of ready-to-eat meals that was founded 36 years ago. The company has partnerships with supermarkets such as Lidl and Iceland. We also work with food-service companies such as Green King and Mecca Bingo.

I joined the family business 13 years ago as New Product Development Director. My role was to lead a team of development chefs and food technologists. We worked with the production team in order to ensure that the transition from recipe development to large-scale production ran smoothly while maintaining product quality.

David meanwhile, has experience in Fast Moving Consumer Goods sales, as he previously worked for Nestlé and Unilever. He joined the family business five years ago to look after marketing and new business development.

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Rishma: In addition to the health benefits of adopting a plant-based lifestyle, we became acutely aware of the impact that animal agriculture has on the environment. Luckily, we are in the perfect position to make a difference. For me, working with plant-based ingredients has opened up a whole new world of recipes and opportunities to be creative in the kitchen.

David:I’m enjoying the journey so far. It has reawakened a passion for learning in me. We both want to create something that is much bigger than ourselves. We also recognise that joining the ProVeg Incubator is a great opportunity to personally develop alongside other people who have similar values. Hopefully, we can all help to encourage more people to adopt a plant-based diet.

What have been the main challenges you’ve faced? 

David: Initially, we started out as an online direct-to-consumer brand in a sector that has some well-founded startups. Those companies have already established an initial concept for plant-based frozen ready meals. However, we had to learn everything from scratch! From how to attract customers to structuring the customer’s journey to ensuring that meals arrive in the perfect condition. All of that was a big challenge.

What makes your company unique? 

Rishma:Our position in the market is to make nutritious plant-based ready meals that are accessible to a wider audience, not just those who can afford monthly subscription boxes.

We have the infrastructure to make meals at scale, while still using a small-batch process. All of our meals are prepared by chefs in 70L-90L stockpots. They follow the concept of homemade meals, but on an industrial scale.

I also designed our meals to appeal to flexitarians who are making the transition to eating more plant-based foods. Our meals are designed to have a taste profile and experience that is similar to what people would usually eat. Our aim is to make meals an easy option on those busy mid-week evening meal occasions.

Root Kitchen meals

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

David: While we are experienced in selling ready-meals to the retail and food-service sector, we have no experience in building a brand that stands for something more than just great-tasting meals.

We both want to learn from people who have been on the same journey as us. By this, we mean, creating a brand that aims to make a difference to our global food system. We looked at the mentors and alumni of the ProVeg Incubator and we thought that this would be the perfect environment to develop Root Kitchen as the brand we want it to be.

In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a startup to be successful? 

David:We are at the beginning of our journey but I think you need to have the fundamentals in place right at the start. Firstly, developing a good-tasting product that fits with consumer expectations and that people will want to buy again is key for a successful food brand.

Secondly, an experienced team and a viable infrastructure that will allow the startup to scale. Thirdly, a startup needs a support network, such as mentors who have experience in the plant-based market and who will support the founders in the decision-making process.

Finally, we think that timing is essential. Not many people would think of starting a cigarette company in 2021, for example. If you can find a category that is growing and you are able to develop a product that meets the needs of the consumer, you’ll have a chance.

What do you hope to achieve with your company in the next 12 months?

Rishma:Our short-term goal is to make the most of our time at the ProVeg Incubator. We plan to learn as much as we can from the experts who are embedded in the environmentally-conscious sector.

In the medium term, we would like to partner with investors who share the same values as us and who will support us in realising our dream of making Root Kitchen a business that has a positive impact. Our focus will be to continue developing our range of ready meals. Also, grown our list of partners (in retail and other channels) in order to make plant-based meals more enjoyable and accessible.

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