Focus: Taking Nim’s Fruit crisps to an award-winning level

When Nimisha Raja first devised her ideas for a healthier-eating based business, she faced initial industry scepticism over whether there would be sufficient demand. But fast-forward just over decade from that fateful moment and her initial business concept of fashioning fruit into air-dried crisps is very much blossoming into a major enterprise.

As the down-to-earth entrepreneur explains, the path to developing Nim’s Fruit Crisps was far from straightforward, having previously established a series of businesses in Battersea, London, encompassing everything from dry cleaning, wine bars, deli stores and then a coffee shop – where the seeds of her present venture were eventually sown. “I’ve always been generally quite health conscious and a vegetarian all my life, so the idea for Nim’s came from the battle I would see between parents and children who came into my café.

“The parents wanted their youngsters to have fruit, and the kids wanted crisps, so we married the two and made everyone happy,” recalls Nimisha, who concedes that her early efforts required considerable research, and plenty of long hours placed into seeing her venture succeed. Her hard-earned success is continuing through a series of supply deals with major supermarkets and key stores including Tesco, Asda and recently Marks & Spencer.

As Confectionery Production recently reported, there remains strong domestic demand for her fruit snacks series, and despite Brexit related logistics issues hampering her European exports, she is finding interests further afield, including having recently secured a distribution deal within the United Arab Emirates.

Encouragingly, it seems all the company’s collective efforts are proving worth it as the business celebrates gaining a Queen’s Award for Innovation. As a sign of the unprecedented times, this freshly-presented major industry accolade comes a full year after it was conferred upon them, due to pandemic conditions preventing gatherings.

“Gaining a Queen’s Award is something I would never even have dreamt would have happened when we made our first apple crisps, but what makes this so special is that it is for innovation. That’s what my real passion is, creating new products,” enthuses Nimisha, who notes with some pride that her latest major honours will be taking pride of place alongside a clutch of industry accolades in recent years that have charted the notable rise of the business

Positives from challenges

As the business owner explains, while there remains a continued pattern of growth for the company, there’s a tight-knit sense of community that she is glad to be part of in the region. Being based in West Kent, Nimisha makes the commute across the county to her firm’s production facilities in Sittingbourne, where she says she has been made especially welcome.

“Originally, I was a single mother just working from home, but when it came to scaling up the business, it was a minefield. I had looked at outsourcing in Hungary, which I did for a while, but it was just not viable in the end, so realised we had to do the production ourselves, and the community here in Sittingbourne has been tremendous. “I’ve had a lot of support from Produced in Kent trade organisation as well, in terms of being introduced to local suppliers,” explained Nimisha, who notes one of the hardest early decisions she had to make was in establishing what scale she would take it to.

As part of that, she reveals she was determined to ensure the business gained BRC certification standards, which open up a gateway for emerging enterprises to supplying larger corporations through guaranteeing product quality. While Nimisha notes that like pretty much everyone else, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is not to be underestimated, with its sales clearly affected in unprecedented times. However, the team, which now numbers around 20 staff in total, continues to remain determined in the face of ongoing Brexit trading challenges, as well as the still problematic pandemic, which is impacting on the wider sector in terms of logistics and health and safety issues which are placing strain on its operations.

Perhaps the most prominent issue she is facing relates to product sourcing – with some of its core fruit ranges coming from Spain in particular, which are experiencing delivery delays due to the burden of additional paperwork now required. However, despite these factors, according to Nimisha, 2021 is proving a surprisingly resilient year for the firm. “It has been really scary when you consider that you’ve invested everything into a business, placed not only your collateral, time and energy, but all your hopes and dreams are placed in it, but we have actually done well.

“We had previously (before Covid-19) anticipated that we would double our sales last year, but figures were in fact 25% up. So, to be in that position and still be profitable during the pandemic is something that we can be proud of – and that’s down to having a really good team in place,” she adds with a sense of genuine optimism and hope that its chosen niche in the market is prospering. “We’ve looked for export outside of the EU, and for some reason it seems easier,” she notes of its recent success with gaining a distribution deal in Dubai, acknowledging that trade with Europe is inevitably being impacted as a result of the fallout from Brexit.

Latest creative ranges

As she reflects, the ongoing market challenges and complexities amid the pandemic are in fact spurring her on to new creative heights in responding to disrupted trading conditions. With a noted drop in demand for ‘on-thego’ ranges owing to covid office and retail trading lockdowns that have affected some of her firm’s core traditional sales areas, it is diversifying to capture the corresponding growth in at-home baking and cooking – which is also capturing retailer, bar and restaurant interest.

Its Let’s Cook and Let’s Bake products are already being trialled by two national restaurant chains who are exploring the natural bespoke ingredients – which include fruit-based options including apple, pear, pineapple and strawberries. Linked to this is an investment totalling over £75,000 into machinery and a new production line to help increase capacity and give it the ability to produce smaller pieces and in packaging options ranging from small, sealed packs to 5kg bulk bags. “Having your own manufacturing makes a complete difference.

That’s what I love about it, having that control to create whatever you want as we have done with our latest range of dried ingredients – that used to be the way that you would preserve food, and we’ve ended up bringing out a range of 25 new products within this latest range.

The business has expanded into a series of infusions for cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks Nim’s has achieved key retail distribution deals with leading UK supermarkets, and expanded with export to the UAE. “I think that the pandemic has really brought on a lot more interest in such healthier ranges,” notes the company founder, who says that while there may well be challenges out there, the business is meeting them head-on.

Related content

Leave a reply

Confectionery Production