Hannah McCollum is a driving force within the food waste sector. Combining her passion and knowledge to not only educate consumers but to challenge their attitudes surrounding food preparation, consumption and waste, Hannah can encourage people to think differently about the way they eat. Founding ChicP, a brand which creates a variety of hummus and other plant-based food, is based on a passionate commitment to reducing waste and creating healthier, natural plant-based products. After witnessing first-hand the colossal volumes of food wasted in the Catering and Hospitality sector, Hannah, who previously worked as a private chef in the events industry, knew she had to start a company that would truly make a difference – and ChicP was born. Created to counteract the current food wastage problem and the obesity crisis across the UK, paired with Hannah’s love of natural, healthy and fresh foods using locally grown ingredients, ChicP perfectly encapsulates her environmental concern and culinary flair.
Sticking to her ethos to Eat Better, Live Better, and Do Better, Hannah utilises surplus ingredients wherever possible and is on a mission to make working with British Farmers more accessible to smaller brands. Hannah’s clear vision for ChicP has seen the brand feature in The Guardian, Independent, Sheerluxe and regularly in national media outlets and magazines, including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. She has recently developed a new ambient (no refrigeration required), natural hummus to help combat the problems of food waste and unhealthy snacking in the travel and convenience industry. This product is the first to market in the UK, the hummus healthier equivalent of the Dairylea Dunker.
Thank you for interviewing with us today, can you introduce yourself to us?
I am the founder of ChicP, a brand which creates a variety of hummus and other plant-based food, is based on a passionate commitment to reducing waste and creating healthier, natural plant-based products. After witnessing first-hand, the colossal volumes of food wasted in the Catering and Hospitality sector, and also working as a private chef, I wanted to start a company that would make a difference – and ChicP was born.
I am based in London and split my time between there and Gloucestershire where my family are.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
I started my business plan for ChicP while I was working for a Private Family business in Mayfair. It was a fantastic experience where I was able to work in travel, food, hospitality, film and philanthropy but it was another world and without any clear progression. I realised while doing more cooking and events work during this time, that my passion really was in helping to prevent food waste and creating healthier plant-based products – Hummus! I always turned leftover dishes into hummus at every catering event, and as a favourite dish of mine, it felt like the obvious answer.
I started in my kitchen and developed the flavours from there, being inspired by what vegetables I saw being wasted the most at New Covent Garden where I collected the produce on early week day mornings. Everything was very chicken and egg for the first year, working on my own. When I was told we were going to be listed with Wholefoods, we were then able to get our first distributor which then gave us the green light with the manufacturer we’d been developing our products with.
We were then listed with Selfrdiges, Harrods, F&M, and a year later Ocado. Wimbledon was our first food service customer and slowly we have launched more products, had new listings with the Coop societies and Booths and various online retailers.
It’s been a journey and our latest development is our new ambient snack pot which is first to market in the UK. It’s now on LNER trains, Oddbox and Amazon, with a number of further listings in the pipeline.
Working with chilled products is NOT easy, and neither is working with surplus, but it’s been a great journey. I have not raised any investment to date and this is what we’re working on now, to help grow the team and develop some strong marketing campaigns to support the new launches.
Since starting, have you made any changes to your business model?
I didn’t know I was going to be launching an ambient product- this is the most recent change, at the end of last year, and was offered to me by some guys I’d known in the industry for a while. This is now our main focus because it’s proving to be the biggest opportunity – and is therefore a big change in our business model!
Have you ever had a mentor? If so how has this benefitted you either personally or professionally?
I have had two advisors from the early days. They worked together at the same company and came on board to help me grow.
I was introduced to them at a very random FMCG breakfast in Peterborough in the first year! Because I didn’t take investment, they have taken a very small share in the business and have been a huge help to running the day to day, small to large decisions, being on my board, and just having someone to call up and give me reassurance and keep me focused.
What outlets do use for marketing?
Mainly social media and we’ve just hired someone in PR again. We promote directly with our retailers but with investment, we want to really build a stronger marketing plan which will help grow our brand awareness and ROS in stores.
What or Who has inspired you most recently?
Most recently, I’ve been inspired by Amelia Christie Miller, founder of Boldbeans. She’s also a friend but has been a fantastic role model for a number of things – no1. Being the face of her own business and making it look great! A brilliant ethos around beans/pulses and how important they are for the food industry/planet. Her recipe dishes are also inspiring and as a chef, I love seeing new ideas.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?
Work smart, not hard. I was told this by my father very early on when he saw me tapping away at my computer. He said you look so busy all the time but is what you’re doing actually growing your business/sales? That really made me think because I knew I spent a lot of time NOT prioritising the things that were…
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
I am very passionate about health and wellbeing and will always put this first. I wake up and do some sort of exercise every morning, I try to meditate most days and now my weekends are very much for my own time, family, nature and being with friends. You only live once, so making sure you enjoy it and have a balanced life is vital. Nature is everything to me and I am happiest in cold rivers and rolling hills – so this is always a priority and I escape London most weekends to revitalise.
Name a seminal point in your career so far?
Launching with Ocado was a big point because they are still one of our biggest customers to date and we have grown year on year with them.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Hearing people’s feedback is always a huge satisfaction. Last week I received the following email from a potential US investor, and it’s these things that keep you going: My wife and I relay enjoyed ALL of the refrigerated versions while still in London. Per my wife … “This is the best dip of any kind that I have ever tasted”.
Are there any leading entrepreneurs or SME leaders that you admire and if so, why?
I think Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is brilliant. He’s everything I stand for and his campaigns for the environment have been a great success – although I feel they all need to be repeated to keep things like using your own coffee cup front of mind!!!
His ethos on nature, sustainability and cooking are very aligned with myself and ChicP.
How do you define your own success?
As long as I am enjoying what I do, and there are sales, opportunities and growth, I am on the right track. The moment I don’t like what I do and have spent long enough trying but things don’t seem to work, I know it’s time to change tack. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a success, it means Ive learnt a huge amount, created something great but it’s no longer meant to be.
Finally, what can we expect from you next?
The Hummus equivalent of the Dairylea Dunker! And hopefully a hummus and dips cookbook… if there are any publishers out there? 😉