In 2018, four young entrepreneurs founded the startup Better Nature: Christopher Kong, Amadeus Driando, Fabio Rinal, and Elin Roberts. Since graduating from the ProVeg Incubator in 2019, the startup has achieved many milestones. As well as being named the ‘Best Startup of the Cohort’ at the Incubator, the team has also won two international food-tech awards, including ‘Best New High-Protein Food and Beverage Startup’ award at the 11th Protein Summit.
Better Nature is genuinely concerned with having a positive impact – on people and the environment. As such, the startup utilises eco-friendly packaging and is a partner of the charity organisation, the 1000 Days Fund, which you can read more about below.
Chris, tell us about your rebranding. What led you to do it and what has changed?
Chris: After lots of consumer research, market analysis, and internal strategising, we made the difficult but exciting decision to rebrand in summer 2021. We knew that changes needed to be made to better provide for our target audience. It was important for us to position tempeh as the unique and extraordinary food that it is. Rather than comparing it to other products. Tempeh’s natural nutrition sits at the heart of the brand. Considering that this is what people are increasingly looking for from plant-based foods.
We also updated our product range and moved away from positioning tempeh as a meat alternative and instead presented it as a naturally delicious, protein-rich food in its own right. Consequently, we’ve said goodbye to our BBQ Ribz and Shawarma-spiced Kebab Strips and have developed BBQ Tempeh Strips and Curry Tempeh Bites to replace them.
We also said goodbye to our Organic Rashers and Organic Mince in favour of more accessibly priced, non-organic versions that are still ethically and sustainably produced. Because providing access to nutritious food to as many people as possible is so important to us, we’re confident this was the right decision. It wasn’t an easy one, though.
At this stage, what’s the main focus of Better Nature?
Chris: At the moment, our main focus is getting into mainstream retail. We’re getting more and more traction with bigger names like Mindful Chef, Selfridges, Bayley & Sage, and Jiffy. These are all amazing, and massively help us to get the word out about tempeh. But we don’t want to stop there. Our goal is to make nutritious and delicious food accessible to all. Therefore, ensuring that our products are as easily available as possible, both in retail and foodservice, is key for us.
How do you see your company in the next two years? Where do you want to be?
We want to be the leading tempeh brand in the UK and starting to make our mark abroad, too. Also, to be spreading the word about tempeh as an extraordinary food that can help people to be and feel well. We want to push the boundaries of what people thought tempeh was capable of. This ranges from enhancing tempeh’s nutritional and sensory properties to growing a diverse range of tempeh-based products.
Please tell us more about your decision to use eco-friendly packaging.
Chris: We believe that truly extraordinary food has to do good for you and the planet. It can’t be one or the other. Which is why our tempeh has earned an A-rating from Foodsteps for its low carbon footprint. We remove twice as much carbon and plastic from the environment as we use to make our tempeh, making it both carbon and plastic negative. There’s still a way to go though, like removing plastic from our packaging altogether. We want to keep doing more to give back to nature – just as much as it’s giving to us through tempeh.
Many startups struggle to implement eco-friendly packaging early on due to costs. What advice would you give them?
Chris: It comes from valuing progress over perfection. There are still issues with our packaging and we acknowledge that. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to improve on a daily basis. We call it being “better-bound” – one of our three core values as a business. We’ve also been lucky enough to work with some great partners, including Footsteps and rePurpose Global. They’ve helped guide us on our journey and made what could be a really challenging process much smoother and more enjoyable.
What is the main piece of advice you would give to an aspiring startup?
Chris: Be focused – this is probably the biggest gift this rebrand has given us. The rebranding gave us a chance to reset everything. To make sure that everything we do is rooted in the same strategy, mission, and values. When you’re constantly trying to improve and learn but things are changing all the time. It can be hard to know what to really focus on.
However, it’s important to know who your product is for and what your consumers are looking for – by speaking to them, not just assuming things. And then, you need to ensure that everything you’re doing is focused on that. From R&D to marketing, everything needs to fit together into that one great business story, so that together you can bring your mission to life.
Tell us more about your charity partnership with the 1000 Days Fund.
Chris: As part of our mission to help people to be and feel well, we donate 1% of our revenue to the 1000 Days Fund. The fund exists to invent, test, and apply innovative, cost-effective solutions to help end stunting in Indonesia. Stunting is a condition caused by prolonged malnutrition and affects physical and brain development. One in three Indonesian children under the age of five years old is stunted.
On average, stunted children perform worse at school than their non-stunted counterparts. They’re also at higher risk of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, and are vulnerable to being trapped in an intergenerational cycle of poverty. We’re grateful that, with the help of our wonderful customers, we can support this important work and help more people to live happy and healthy lives.