By Bethany Harris, Epigram Science Editor
Science Editor, Bethany Harris, interviews third year mechanical engineering student ,James Nightingale, about his food technology start-up company 'Abon'.
'So, what is Abon and what are the products?'
Abon (a bag of nutrition) is a food technology start-up company making a product that is super convenient, super cheap and super healthy. The products are vegan, frozen vacuum sachets of either superfood pesto or roast veg curry, both of which can be added to boiling water containing rice or pasta. Simply drop the sachet into boiling water in the last 3 minutes of cooking pasta or rice. In that time the bags will defrost and heat up. As each sachet is a sealed unit, no moisture is lost, and the bright and zingy flavour profile is maintained. This method of preparation is unique and is why I believe these products are less compromised than anything currently available.
'Why did you choose to make the products vegan?'
Personally, I have found that the current offerings for vegans are pretty poor and uninspiring. I have tried to be vegan myself on several occasions but have always failed due to a lack of provision. For me, there is a lack of balance, you either have to invest a lot of time into cooking vegan food, or you invest little time and end up with a limited selection of vegan ready meals and don’t eat a very healthy, nutritious diet. This is where Abon comes in. However, making the product vegan is also beneficial for the environment, something which I am very passionate about. Even cutting meat for your diet a couple of times a week could go a long way.
'Where do you see the future of veganism going?'
There are currently over 540,000 vegans in the UK. This has gone up by 360% in the last 10 years and I only see this accelerating! Motivations to become vegan are on the increase as not only are there significant health benefits but people are beginning to care more and more about the environmental impacts of meat production and the importance of animal welfare. As a vegan company I recognise that we have a social responsibility beyond the ingredients we put into the food. It is very important that everything we do is clean and green. For example, we have spent a lot of time working on the packaging making sure that it stands out on the shelf, is recyclable and as minimal as possible.
'Who do you see being Abon’s biggest target market?'
I anticipate that the biggest market will be students. A lot of students sacrifice nutrition and a healthy diet in favour of value and convenience. Despite being abhorrent, pot noodles are a student staple! What Abon offers will help people who lack the time, money, skill or inclination to make a nutritious meal.
'How did you come up with the idea for the business?'
By accident! Whilst I have always been an enthusiastic chef I didn’t plan to start a food tech company. I made too much pasta sauce one day and put it in a ziplock freezer bag for another time. Months later I found the bag and thought; rather than thawing it, I would put the whole bag into the boiling pasta water. The plastic melted and it was a horrendous mess. However, it sparked the imagination for Abon. Most student start-ups are degree spin outs which have come through their degree. Abon has happened by accident which makes it all the more interesting!
'How successful have you been so far?'
Considering the business launched over the summer with few students in Bristol, I am delighted with the progress so far. We have got some excellent feedback allowing the business to continue to improve.
What support have you received support from the uni?
I have received a huge amount of support and have been lucky enough to get a couple of grants. A university run new enterprise competition gave me some funding at the start of the summer along with access to shared office space at the centre for innovation and introduced me to a mentor. They have been superb!
'Have you received any support from outside of the uni?'
I applied to the Natwest Pre-accelerator scheme, an intensive eight-week programme for early stage businesses, over the summer and got accepted. It starts on the 24th September and runs up to the beginning of October. This will provide me with coaching and mentorship, giving me the skills to allow Abon to progress.
James is currently delivering Abon to a small radius within the centre of Bristol but is soon hoping to see the products being stocked in supermarkets. You can order the products through the website: www.abon.xyz
Feature image: Unsplash/Igor Miske
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