Ally started Nature Kitchen in 2009, on a market stall in Cornwall. With a range of just 50 herbs and spices sold by weight, she had one simple mission – to educate her customers and motivate the people of Cornwall to start cooking from scratch. Seven years later, customers travel miles to visit the Nature Kitchen store in Cornwall and to visit the team at food stalls around the country, driving lifetime custom to the Nature Kitchen online shop.
When Ally started Nature Kitchen, the ‘foodie’ movement was just starting to gather speed. Consumers were beginning to take notice of what was in the food they were buying and home cooking from scratch was growing in popularity. Ally was already ahead of the curve. As a keen traveller and cultural cook with an interest in herbal medicine, she already had her own freshly ground herbs, spices and blends ready to take Cornwall by storm. These herbs and spices weren’t widely available in supermarkets, so it just made sense to Ally to start her own store.
“The foodie movement has grown substantially since then and many have joined in the fun with local street food and delis popping up all over the place.”
As Cornwall’s taste for Nature Kitchen grew, so did the foodie movement. Consumers were closely monitoring the ingredients in the foods they consumed and ‘free from’ products started to appear on store shelves. Nature Kitchen products had always been created without these ingredients, so Ally started to market her products as gluten free and vegan. Interest really started to pick up and it wasn’t long before the Nature Kitchen team started to make appearances at food events across the country. They would hand out taster recipes and samples and found that they made a great connection with the customers that they met. As a way to turn these connections into repeat customers, the team started to hand out tasters and recipe cards with a link to the Nature Kitchen online store. This created a means of repeat and lifetime custom from consumers that couldn’t reach the Nature Kitchen store on a regular basis.
“I have found getting out there and meeting the customers at events is the best form of advertising. When they find you online they (already) have a connection.”
From these efforts Nature Kitchen steadily built a large pool of regular customers and the word of the products started to spread. The business received positive coverage, recommendations and rave reviews from many glossy food magazines and food blogs which helped the business continue to grow.
“Flavour is habitual getting people onto the good stuff is a win win. And once someone is hooked on a favourite healthy seasoning they always buy. It’s a bit like tomato sauce if you are a real fan you will only go for the brand.”
In high demand
It wasn’t long before there was a demand for Nature Kitchen at food shows and events around the country. The team simply couldn’t meet the demand, so Ally started a Spice Merchant programme that allowed fellow spice enthusiasts to attend these shows with Nature Kitchen products as self-employed merchants. This helped to consistently spread awareness of Nature Kitchen, on a wider scale than possible within the Nature Kitchen team could alone. It also helped fellow entrepreneurs like Ally find the freedom of self-employment that Ally found with Nature Kitchen.
“Our Merchants can make their own blends, we encourage creativity and ownership. Being self-employed has integrity.”
After starting with an investment of just £1000, Ally transformed her business from a market stall into a recognisable brand. The shop now stocks gift packs, recipe books and hampers as well as the core herbs and spices that gave the business such popularity. Nature Kitchen now retails to the public, wholesales to retailers and supplies the food service industry.
“It’s been one long roller coaster…The biggest highlight is, we are still here. Looking better every day in every way. I’m very thankful to my customers and business associates who are inspired by our passion for knowledge and honest food.”