With celebrity fans like Gywneth Paltrow on board, Geeta Sidhu-Robb is gearing up to take her raw food smoothies to the masses
New businesses tend to be born out of entrepreneurial zeal, career revaluation or happy accident - rarely out of necessity.
Yet that’s why Geeta Sidhu-Robb abandoned her high-flying corporate lawyer to create Nosh Detox. When her son was born in 1996, he suffered from a number of serious food allergies - from the age of three to 17 months he spent 240 days hospitalised.
Frustrated by the lack of dietary advice and support for parents in her position, Sidhu-Robb threw herself into studying the impact food has on the body. She hit upon a diet of cooked, raw and natural ingredients that met her son’s nutritional needs, but wouldn’t inflame his allergies. After a couple of days there was a noticeable change and before long her son’s allergies were cured. The episode inspired Sidhu-Robb to ditch her legal career in 2008 and retrain as a food technician and nutritionist, offering a home detox food service under the Nosh Detox brand name.
Four years later, her business is generating an annual turnover of £700,000 selling to clients including Hollywood star Gwyneth Paltrow. And Sidhu-Robb has just embarked on the next phase of her plan - to introduce raw food to the masses. Last month, a four-strong range of her 100% Raw smoothies were launched in Whole Foods Market. But just how receptive are the masses going to be to the idea of raw food - and how likely is Sidhu-Robb to win a listing for the smoothies in the multiples?
The smoothies were originally introduced to Nosh Detox’s home delivery clients a few months after Sidhu-Robb set up the business. “We thought we should blend juices and give them to people because it’s the fastest way to hide superfoods because of the taste of them,” she explains.
But Sidhu-Robb quickly set her sights on developing the product for a retail environment, which proved to be a painstaking process. “We wanted to put them on the shelf somewhere, but we didn’t want to heat treat them and couldn’t find another way to do it.”
“We thought Whole Foods Market had taken them off the shelf but they’d sold out. And they sold out the next week”
So she hired an food expert to explore ways to lock in the nutrients and provide a shelf life that was almost double that of a standard heat -treated smoothie.
The solution was cold press technology, which allows the fruit and other ingredients in each Raw Smoothie to retain more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes than conventional smoothies, claims Sidhu-Robb. With the manufacturing process licked, the next challenge was launching the product.
“We were taking a product that doesn’t exist in the mainstream. It’s a very fast-growing niche market that your average buyer would never have come across and doesn’t care about,” says Sidhu-Robb. “Plus it only has a 30-day shelf life, so we’ve ticked as many boxes as we can to irritate people, but they gave me the opportunity to go in and say this is why I think it matters and this is where it’s going. They were all fantastic and were willing to give us a trial.”
Early listings were secured with independent retail outlets and Planet Organic, but then in August Whole Foods Market confirmed it was willing to give the product shelf space in early September, which is when sales really started to take off.
“Three days after the smoothies launched into Whole Foods Market, we went in to take photos for our records but couldn’t find them. We thought they’d taken them off the shelf but they’d sold out. And they sold out the next week, so we had to increase production. Then everybody sold out. It’s a nice problem, but really frightening.”
Next up is the mults, although Sidhu-Robb says she intends to allow further momentum to build behind the brand before she approaches them. When she does she has to hand the results of blind taste tests with pedestrians in London and Oxford - 72% said they preferred them over Innocent. She has four more Nosh product lines that she would like to one day bring to market, but for now her focus is on growing awareness and educating people about the next generation of raw rood, which she is “lighter, healthier and not packed full of nuts”.
As for her son, who is about to turn 16, the only thing he’s allergic to these days, says Sidhu-Robb, is homework.