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Meat remains a staple in diets all over the world. In the last 50 years, meat production has tripled. However, in the face of growing concerns surrounding the health and sustainability repercussions of our broken food system, consumers are actively looking for planet-conscious alternatives. In some cases, that may mean ditching meat altogether. In most cases, it means choosing producers that treat their livestock with respect, offset their carbon footprint and are actively repairing our nutritional supply chain.
Sustainable snack brand and aspiring B Corp Ember Snacks is leading the movement to end factory farming in the meat industry. Every one of their products is created the old-fashioned way, using simple, natural ingredients, in collaboration with farms that are committed to animal welfare and soil regeneration.
We sat down with co-founders Harry and Jack Mayhew to get the full story.
Tell us the Ember Snacks story! How did the business first start?
We’re both into sports and have competed in triathlons. The idea came about whilst we were training for an Ironman. We had discovered biltong for its high protein benefits, but there wasn’t much choice here in the UK. One thing led to another and before we knew it we had quit our jobs. That was nearly 4 years ago now!
What are some of the shortcomings of the meat industry that you’re aiming to fix?
A lot of people think that farming animals in general is bad for the environment full stop – but it’s not as simple as that. Factory farming gives meat a bad name and it’s growing here in the UK. It’s a system that ignores animal welfare, destroys nutritional value, and damages the planet through carbon emissions, water pollution and biodiversity loss. Take the UK for example. Over 90% of pork consumed in this country is intensively farmed and the animals never see the outdoors. There’s something very fundamentally wrong with that.
How does Ember Snacks contribute to sustainability in our food system?
We work directly with farmers who use high welfare and sustainable farming practices to rebuild soil health and encourage wildlife. Our Steak Slices are sourced from a handful of British farms that are 100% grass-fed and organic. Our Lean Salami is sourced from Dingley Dell Farm in Suffolk – a third generation family run farm with outdoor reared pork and the home of the Million Bee Project which aims to feed 1,000,000 bees. Lastly, our Venison slices are made with only wild British deer which are mostly sourced from East Anglia.
We believe that regenerative farming is the answer to the problem with meat. A regenerative farming system will often use livestock to help manage the land, and this can have an amazing beneficial impact capturing carbon and putting it in the soil, as well as benefiting wildlife. We are sourcing more and more from farms that use regenerative farming.
How do you ensure sustainability and quality throughout your supply chain, and how do you intend to keep that scalable as you grow?
As a meat brand, the biggest impact we can have is ensuring we only work with the best farmers and suppliers. We conducted some extensive research a couple of years ago to help form our thinking and then we created a weighted scorecard for our business. The image below shows a summary of our scorecard, and although this is relatively high level, it gives a flavour for the topics of conversation that guide our business. We use the scorecard to help prioritise our decisions and lead on improvement projects:
What have been the biggest milestones you’ve hit so far?
It was exciting to grow nearly 60% YoY last year, and things have been off to a strong start in 2021. We launched our new charcuterie range in Sainsbury’s which is seeing some really strong performance and we’ve seen distribution increases in this area recently. It’s been over a year of hard work developing these products through experimentation with lots of recipes and travelling the UK to meet farmers and producers. Seeing everything come to life has been amazing.
What has the feedback from customers been like so far, have you incorporated it into your product development?
We’re really lucky to have an incredible community of customers that regularly give us feedback. Whenever we’re launching a product, we go through several stages where we speak to customers and make changes accordingly. Including these stages in the development process helps us tweak our recipes before we launch products, and we’re happy to say it pays dividends.
Do you have any new products or partnerships in the pipeline?
We have huge plans for the next year which involve some pretty big product innovation. I can’t tell you much more than that I’m afraid. We’re also on track to become the first B Corp in meat snacking in Europe which will hopefully be announced in the next few months.
What has your funding history looked like to date, and why did you choose crowdfunding?
We’ve been lucky that we’ve had a small number of angel investors who have regularly backed us over the last few years. It’s allowed us to focus on growing the business and it proves that they have confidence in what we’re doing. We have thought about crowdfunding for a while. It’s a brilliant opportunity for our customers, friends and family to invest, who otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance.
If you had to pick one favourite Ember Snacks product what would it be?
What is one thing you think everyone can do to promote sustainability in their everyday lives?
Less and better in everything you consume. From food, to clothes, to leisure.
If you could go back and start the company again, what’s one thing you would change?
We had poor packaging that impacted product quality when we launched. It created some negative customer experiences in the early days. Our learning is that your product is everything!
Ember Snacks is open for investment! Visit the pitch to find out more.