It's British Sandwich Week & the nation's minds are focussed on fillings packed inside a bready outer. The sandwich is one of Britain's greatest inventions & is the largest part of the food to go market - each year we spend £3 billion on sandwiches! Co-founder of Women In the Food Industry, Mecca Ibrahim, chatted with Anishya Kumar of Zinda Foods about sandwiches, start ups and selling to supermarkets.
The AirWrap first came from the concept of Anishya making home made ready meals & salads. She was given the opportunity to sell them in my local convenience stores and found that with everything she was making the AirWrap really took off. She said "I come from quite a mixed background and the food we eat is not really bound to any one culture or region. I wanted to create a mix of micro cuisines which you can normally only find if you’re invited to someone’s home."
Her efforts were rewarded quite early in her journey when the AirWrap was given an award. Anishya explains. "The British Sandwich Association was the trade body that was closest to what I was producing. I’d heard about their Sammies Awards and I thought why not give it a try. In 2016 we were highly commended for one of our fillings. In 2017 we got the big win – The Sammie for the most innovative ingredient – the AirWrap. That industry recognition meant a lot. The judges said it was a “game changer”. Everyone can say they are doing something different, but with this validation we were “officially” different."
Anishya is also are working with award winning chefs on your fillings, she was asked why she took this route "This was a huge learning curve for me. Initial advice was to work with NPD (New Product Development) chefs in the sandwich filling category. But I found their approach to be bit clinical. I wanted the fillings to have depth and character and I have personal friends who are chefs. Alfred Prasad and his creative approach has bought that meaning and personality to the wraps and really crossed boundaries.
Moving from her own kitchen and from selling through local convenience store to supplying to Tesco was a big move and must have come with many challenges. It's a journey that most people wanting to go big will be interested in. She said "The convenience stores are highly important but I wanted to approach bigger stores & supermarkets. There were several skeptics who said I’d never do it, but because I was passionate about the AirWrap I wanted to try. I didn’t even expect Tesco to say yes when I first met them. I’d have been fine with them saying come back in a year."
How did she find scaling up for their orders? "First I had to make a decision as to whether we would manufacture ourselves or let another factory take over. The soft option was to get a sandwich manufacturer to make the fillings and put them in our base. But I would have lost control of all of the ingredients that went into it. I wanted to streamline the systems myself. When I started with the convenience stores I was making about 10 cases of each flavour of wrap a day, but I had to scale up to producing 30 to 40 cases a day of each flavour with the first Tesco order. Then orders doubled within two weeks and trebled shortly after that."
Ingredients are extremely important to Anishya who explains her position on trans fats, palm oil and additives and preservatives. "I don’t think it’s normal for a tortilla to have a 6 to 12 month shelf life. We’re all bit critical now and look at additives that are in our food and there’s a clear move to eating more naturally. Why should this be any different with the carriers of our sandwiches or wraps?"
You can read the full interview with Anishya Kumar, founder of Zinda Foods on Women In the Food Industry's site. Look out for more interviews with female founders of food businesses in the coming weeks.
"I do not think it is normal for a tortilla to have a 6-12 month shelf life.There is a clear move to eating more naturally. Why should this be any different with the base of our sandwiches or wraps?"
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