Entrepreneur Nimisha Raja already markets a very successful range of fruit crisps in the UK, trading under the name Nim’s Fruit Crisps. These include unusual flavours such as: Pineapple & Kiwi, Orange & Melon, Apple & Strawberry, Pear & Kiwi. As she gears up to launch the UK’s first air-dried vegetable crisps range – containing equally innovative flavours like Pepper & Courgette, Tomato & Cucumber, Beetroot & Parsnip – she tells Produce Business UK about her quest for local vegetable suppliers
“The biggest problem has been getting supplies of suitable vegetables,” Raja begins. “Our first production runs involve one to two tonnes of each vegetable concerned. We want to source as much as possible within the UK, so we are trawling around growers to get the best supplies. We are especially looking for beetroot at the moment, and may have to source some in Europe, but we prefer to source as much as possible in the UK.”
As the range develops, Nim’s aims to plan ahead and consider in which seasons vegetables are available so the company can place orders in advance. “We are thinking of having some seasonal crisps and this may include broccoli and mushrooms,” reveals Raja. “Broccoli worked very well in our taste tests. We cut the crisps from florets of broccoli and it had a similar taste to kale.”
To develop the vegetable crisp line Raja says Nim’s trialled various different flavours to determine how they looked, cooked and cost. “We wanted to create crisps that held their colour, were tasty and different,” she explains.
“We wanted to keep the crisps as simple and natural as possible. We did try broccoli crisps and mushroom crisps. These were very successful in tastings but were much more expensive to make, so these may have to be seasonal ones [to market] in the future. The ones we chose were the most commercial in terms of cost and sourcing.”
Overall, the initial response to the new savoury line has been “extremely good”, according to Raja. “We have attended various trade shows and had a tremendous response to the tastings we offered,” she enthuses. “We are attending the Ideal Home Show this month [March 18-April 3] when we will officially launch the crisps.”
The unusual tastes appeal to all ages, claims Raja, and while adults were a little more reluctant to try the broccoli crisps, once trialled they were enthusiastic. The crispy texture of all the products was very well liked, in particular, and the range was appreciated for its savoury alternative to sweet and tangy fruit crisps. The healthy nature of the crisps was popular too – not surprisingly in view of the ever-increasing demand for healthy, fat-free snacks.
“When I launched the brand in 2011, my main objective was to combat unhealthy snacking patterns in adults and children,” says Raja. “It’s exciting to offer a savoury alternative to our sweet and tangy fruit crisps. Major retail and specialty retailers are excited by this.”
Raja believes the crisps offer the perfect solution to consumer demand for innovative snacking concepts, as well as being an eye-catching addition to meals or tie-in meal deals. The range is also said to be ideal for gluten-free diets, coeliacs and vegans.
Arrangements have already been made to sell the new range through numerous independent and health food stores. The vegetable crisps will also be available online via the EarlyBird Healthy Snacks website.
Nim’s manufactures its crisps using an air-drying technique within a dedicated factory owned by the company. This guarantees consistency and quality is maintained, as well as ensuring high nutrient values. With no frying involved, the end product is a much healthier form of snack food.
Unlike many dried vegetables, the resultant crispy product at Nim’s is not leathery, but very crisp and nutritious. Once bagged, the crisp texture is maintained until opened and the crisps are eaten. By having its own dedicated production facilities, Nim’s can ensure complete control over production. This allows Nim’s to respond to customer demands and deliver bespoke orders swiftly and to exacting specifications.
Raja’s facility has attracted considerable attention and looks set to provide production for more than just Nim’s Fruit Crisps in the future. Several companies who manufacture muesli bars and snack bars have already contacted Nim’s to supply dried produce so they can include air-dried crispy fruit and vegetables in their own bars.
“Air drying allows the air to circulate around the crisps and a shorter period of preparation is required,”explains Raja. “It retains more nutrients, keeps the colour, the brightness and look of the product, and gives an authentic taste.”
Raja is already looking at the next stage of development for Nim’s Fruit Crisps too. Having built up the company from a simple production line within her garage, she is now investigating other possible ideas.
She says: “I have lots of ideas. The creation of a factory production facility enables me to play house on a larger scale and be creative and innovative. We can make much more products – watch this space for the future.”