Rising Stars: Nisha Menon
We speak with Nisha Menon, founder of Jack & Chill, as she reveals why she started the business, what drew her to the food and drinks industry, the importance of sustainability and her advice for the next generation
Give us your elevator pitch.
Jack & Chill creates innovative and flavoursome jackfruit meals to inspire not just vegans or vegetarians, but meat-eaters around the world to help cut down their meat!
What inspired you to work in the food industry?
We are a family run business with two factories based in Kerala, India. My dad set up the Frozen food business, Nikasu, 25 years ago to manufacture Indian Frozen foods including samosas, spring rolls, coconut etc. and export to customers around the world.
After having graduated with a degree in Medical Microbiology, I never imagined I would get into the food business. But I decided to join my family business 12 years ago because I wanted flexibility around my kids so I could spend more time with them.
"I was passionate about bringing that 'miracle fruit' from my home town to the western world."
Why did you start Jack & Chill?
Having spent my childhood in Kerala, India, I have experienced and was amazed to see how Jackfruit could mimic the meat texture and absorb the flavour in various delicacies. I was passionate about bringing that 'miracle fruit' from my home town to the western world so everyone can enjoy the versatility. Our 'Jackfruit Burgers', 'Biryani' and 'Pulled Jackfruit' are available in over 500 independent health stores in the UK, Europe and Ireland.
What are your thoughts on sustainability and how are you feeding them into your business?
I believe that sustainability is really important these days, and many companies (especially small companies) are trying to build it in their system.
Around 70% of the Jackfruit used to go waste in Kerala until a few years ago, and it was called the 'poor man's fruit' because it grows in abundance. But now by using these jackfruits for all our meals, we provide an extra source of income not just to the farmers, but to the households who have jackfruit trees in their back yard.
We are also trying to reduce plastic in our packs and make it environment friendly.
What has been Jack & Chill's greatest achievement?
2019 was the best year for Jack & Chill. We launched that January and our retail products were listed with a couple of leading wholesalers even before our launch. As soon as we launched, we supplied jackfruit as an ingredient to many big manufacturers who supply to several foodservice customers in the UK.
Did you face any challenges when setting up your business?
Yes, of course. Setting up a business in the UK was completely new to me, and juggling with my newborn baby then, I didn't know whom to ask for help.
The main challenge was since our products are frozen, we always had several limitations like:
a) We cannot import small quantities like pallet loads from India, but minimum a 20ft container, which is 10 tonnes.
b) Sending small orders to customers was expensive and so we sold only pallet orders to customers.
Where do you see Jack & Chill in 5 years time?
We have plans to bring more frozen meals and ambient snacks into our range and make them available nationally and internationally, so everyone gets to enjoy our meals.
How supportive do you find the food industry and is there anyone who has helped you on your journey?
My family has always been an incredible support from the beginning. Being part of various food/business groups and networking massively helped, because being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey at times! So the food industry is definitely supportive.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Failure is part of the journey, and you learn from your failures.
I love the quote FAIL is 'First Attempt In Learning.' Also, remember tough times do not last forever!
What advice do you have for the next generation of entrepreneurs?
Never doubt yourself and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Just take the leap of faith towards your first step, and gradually things will fall in place.
Got a great idea for a business? Why not follow in Nisha's footsteps!
free-from, with love x